The title of the song “666m” by Indonesian psychedelic band RadakBanu refers to the height of the volcano mountain in Banda Neira, an island in the east of Indonesia once the center of the spice trade. The song is grounded by a fluidly looping bass line and flowing guitar figure that serves as both melody and accent to the rhythm. If you’re a native English speaking person you probably won’t understand the vocals (perhaps in Bandanese Malay) but it hardly matters as they convey a strong sense of place and passionate reverence. The music is a mix of traditional Indonesian music and informed by Western progressive rock. Like a fusion of traditional music and something by Can in that it feels very spontaneous yet ritualized to put one’s mind in a space outside normal consciousness. The structure of the song is circular yet expansive, its blending of tone and rhythm mesmerizing. Fans of the more folk end of Japanese psych bands like Acid Mothers Temple, Ghost and Kikagaku Moyo as well as Tuareg guitar phenom Mdou Moctar should definitely spend some time with this band’s music as its rhythms, too, are in that kind of hypnotic compound time that allows well infinite iterations with infinite variation. Listen to “666m” on Spotify and follow RadakBanu at the links provided.
What:Psychedelic Porn Crumpets w/Meatbodies and Serpentfoot When: Thursday, 09.19, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: The unlikely named Psychedelic Porn Crumpets from Perth, Australia at least picked an apt moniker because it captures what you’re in for. Oh, sure, stoner rocked psychedelia thrown together with prog and fuzzy melodies and tripped out choruses. Its new album And Now For the Whatchamacallit has surreal song titles like “My Friend’s a Liquid,” “Digital Hunger,” “Hymn For A Droid” and “Keen For Kick Ons.” If Lewis Carroll had been born in the 90s and grew up at a time when the older kids in Tame Impala and Pond were kicking around in the local scene he might have ended up in a band like this.
What:Cuco w/Ambar Lucid and KAINA When: Thursday, 09.19, 7 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom Why: At twenty-one Omar Banos aka Cuco is a bonafide pop star who came up on Chicano rap stars like Baby Bash and MC Magic. Like the latter he also sings and raps in English and Spanish. Banos has also folded into his soundscapes a laid back kind of psychedelic pop sound. While his songwriting and the production thereon is strong and evocative, his music videos and storytelling shows a side of life that is honest, surprisingly candid and often uncomfortable but real and therein lies the power of the presentation of his music. “Bossa No Sé” from his debut album Para Mi (2019) navigates the troubled waters of a breakup with sensitivity, complexity and comfort with uncertainty and confusion. Cuco’s balance of the romantic and the realistic has been fascinating so far.
What:The Melvins w/Redd Kross and Toshi Kasai When: Friday, 09.20, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Melvins have done pretty much whatever they’ve wanted to that was fun for them music-wise since beginning in 1983. Before grunge was a thing, Melvins had already perfected that sound and aesthetic as well as a certain strain of doom. Most left field heavy music today can probably trace a bit of influence to the band originally from Montesano, Washington. The group’s prolific catalog covers a good deal of sonic territory and the band has collaborated with the likes of industrial music pioneer Lustmord, Jello Biafra and, recently, with Swedish noise-punk stars Shitkid (who are performing select dates on the current tour) on the Bangers EP. The group has experimented with the format of its lineup such as when the members of Big Business joined for two drummers and a bassist. And now with two bassists and a single drummer. Or as Melvins Lite with Mr. Bungle (among other projects) member Trevor Dunn on bass. Melvins might also be the only American band to have played all fifty states in fifty days. You never quite know what you’re in store for with a Melvins show except that it’ll be worth your time unless heavy, imaginative music and powerful performances thereof aren’t your thing. Melvins bassist Steven McDonald is doing double duty this tour with his original band, the influential punk/power pop group Redd Kross.
What:Boris w/Uniform When: Friday, 09.20, 8 p.m. Where: Marquis Theater Why: Japanese heavy, experimental psych and drone extravaganza, Boris, is currently touring in support of its 2019 album LφVE & EvφL due out October 4. If you’re going expecting their mind-altering psychedelic freakouts, rumor has it you may be let down. But if you are into the slow roiling drone the band has engaged in in the past but updated and more like a psych SunnO))) this would be the tour to catch. Opening the show is industrial noise band Uniform which is comprised of former members of The Men and Drunkdriver.
What:30 Years of Work: VAHCO 1989-2019 Physical release w/Dead Characters, Chromadrift, nIGHTtIMEsCHOOLbUS, Bowshock and Demoncassettecult When: Friday, 09.20, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Vahco Before Horses aka Vahco Strickland has spent the last thirty years involved in producing, promoting and writing music in various formats and styles. This show celebrates his career retrospective and the release of the flash drive containing one hundred of his songs. The performances will include collaborations with various members of bands affiliated with his Glasss Records imprint as well as a showcase for his more electronic pop songs and his industrial ambient collage songwriting as Demoncassettecult.
Saturday | September 21
What:Zealot album release w/Simulators and The Vanilla Milkshakes When: Saturday, 09.21, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Zealot is releasing its debut album The Book of Ramifications. But what this debut album doesn’t make obvious are the musical roots of the group in Denver underground rock. Does that matter? It does if you know who The Don’ts and Be Carefuls, Supply Boy, Façade and Ideal Fathers were. Or The Outfit, The Pseudo Dates, Violent Summer or Fingers of the Sun were. Much less Catatonic Lydia or Le Divorce. All of that goes into informing the upbeat, well-crafted pop songs that comprise the band’s new album and the sizzling, wiry energy of its performances. There is a tick toward the positive running through the record. Rather than a “city of the dead” there’s “City of the Living.” Instead of irrevocable mistakes there’s “Fix it in Post.” Rather than a dark horse there’s a “Show Pony.” Instead of a broken heart there’s “Overloud Heart.” You get “Somnambulist” instead of insomnia. “Black Paint” rather than institutional yellow. A “Snake Goddess” rather than the insecure dictator Yaweh. “Casio Argento” in place of Dario or Asia. And more. It’s an upbeat record with some tight melodies and a charming economy of songwriting. The Simulators will bring the angular menace of its music and Vanilla Milkshakes will deliver earnest, blustery pop punk as companion to Zealot’s fastidious songcraft. Oh yes, there’s also a companion covers album called Revised Edition featuring renditions of all the songs on the new record as done by the band’s local scene peers as well as a solo cover done by the band’s bassist Suzi Allegra. All of which is a gesture not many bands would bother to attempt to release concurrent with a new album.
What:Charlie Cunningham w/The Still Tide When: Saturday, 09.21, 8 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: The Still Tide’s Anna Morsett has played in Colorado musical projects as varied as Ark Life, Porlolo and These United States as well as with Natalie Tate and Brent Cowles. But perhaps where she shines brightest is in her own band The Still Tide. Her guitar work is both ethereal and fiery, her ear for dynamics and tone keen and imaginative. Morsett’s songwriting is both intimate yet expansive, introspective and yearning, reconciling contrasts with a broad emotional palette. And she’s opening for noteworthy UK singer-songwriter Charlie Cunningham whose 2017 album lines included the deeply evocative single “Minimum” and its entrancing atmospheres.
What:Wovenhand w/Jaye Jayle When: Saturday, 09.21, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Evan Patterson is rightfully known for his heavier music with Young Widows and Breather Resist. But his Jaye Jayle project is taking him in a different direction with a pastoral songwriting style that serves well the contemplative storytelling of the music he initially wrote as a solo project rather than something that needed to fit into the format of a full, loud band. These days he has partners in realizing the musical vision and the results is a kind of haunted Americana. Which makes it an ideal pairing with Americana infused post-punk/noise rock band Wovenhand from Denver. Wovenhand started out as very much in the post-Sixteen Horsepower vein continuing what singer and main songwriter David Eugene Edwards had been developing since the late 80s. But in the past decade the music has become more sonically intense (it was always emotionally so) and incorporating a broader range of dynamics and sounds so that early fans may even find it, except for Edwards’ undeniable spiritual presence, unrecognizable.
What:Greg Laswell w/Sarah Slaton When: Saturday, 09.21, 7 p.m. Where: The Soiled Dove Underground Why: Greg’s warmth and humanity expressed in clever and insightful turns of phrase has made him a national treasure of a songwriter.
What:Mdou Moctar w/Pale Sun When: Saturday, 09.21, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Mdou Moctar might be the most internationally renowned guitarist and songwriter out of Niger in the modern era and his electric adaptations of Tuareg guitar music has made him a favorite among discerning music fans who are open to such fusions of musical ideas, rhythms and sounds. To the uninitiated he may sound like an exotic prog artist but his music is deep and sophisticated. He is again touring in support of his 2019 album Ilana (The Creator).
What:Surf Curse w/Dirt Buyer When: Sunday, 09.22, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Surf Curse is a duo from Los Angeles whose name may convey the impression it’s one of those surf rock/garage psych bands that have plagued the musical landscape for around a decade. And to some extent that’s exactly what these guys are. Except there’s something raw about their songwriting and performances and their music videos, whoever is directly involved in their scripting and design, speak to an uncommon creative imagination and as though the people in the band had in mind films that their songs might suit. Pick any of the videos and you’ll find something that’s a cut above most videos most bands are making these days. The band’s new album, Heaven Surrounds You, was released on September 13 on Danger Collective. For a duo Nick Rattigan and Jacob Rubeck manage to have a full sound yet spare songwriting so they’re doing something right.
What:Pop Will Eat Itself w/Chemlab and Scifidelic w/DJ Dave Vendetta When: Sunday, 09.22, 7 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater Why: Pop Will Eat Itself is a genre bending band that dispensed with the usual stylistic boundaries between grebo, sleaze rock and industrial dance music akin to My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult. Chemlab was one of the bands that helped define the sound and aesthetic of industrial rock in the 90s fusing old school industrial with hard rock.
Monday | September 23
What:Acid King w/Wizard Rifle and Warish When: Monday, 09.23, 7 p.m. Where: MarquisTheater Why: Acid King is on tour in support of the twentieth anniversary of its classic psych doom album Busse Woods. The group began in the early 90s when its sound was very much not in vogue but two decades later its heavy, experimental psych metal, not fully duplicated by other artists, has made it a cult band among connoisseurs of that realm of music.
What:Jay Som w/Boy Scouts and Affectionately When: Tuesday, 09.24, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Jay Som’s hazy pop songs have a personal emotional insight and sophistication of songcraft that can be easy to miss when you’re lost in the moment with her. Her new album Anak Ko blurs the lines between noisy shoegaze, indie pop and the 70s Laurel Canyon sound. Taylor Vick of Boy Scouts has written one of the most affecting, vivid and cathartic set of songs about loss and healing from sorrow and setbacks of the past few years for the new Boy Scouts album Free Company. Her unconventional melodies and song dynamics give her compositions a depth and complexity that reward repeatedly exploring her catalog.
What:Like A Villain, Harms, Earth Control Pill and Debaser When: Tuesday, 09.24, 8 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: Like A Villain is sort of an industrial ambient act whose dark and heavily textured atmospheres explore the personal and collective psyche in operatic vocals and processed loops. The new album What Makes Vulnerability Good, released on September 20, 2019, makes exquisite use of space in tone and rhythm that it engulfs you gently before you realize it.
Wednesday | September 25
What:Tash Sultana w/The Tesky Brothers When: Tuesday, 09.24, 6:30 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: Tash Sultana is a guitar prodigy whose psychedelic rock, blues and folk songs created with her expert ability to play multiple part at once and along with loops is impressive on its own but the energy and enthusiasm with which she plays is infectious. As a multi-instrumentalist, Sultana crafts her songs real time in an almost orchestral manner as an orchestra of one. Difficult to pigeonhole a genre for Sultana as her songwriting style is unique but might be compared to an artist like Tune Yards.
What:Russian Circles w/Facs When: Tuesday, 09.24, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Russian Circles is an instrumental metal band from Chicago but it’s songs are more akin to post-rock in their use of mood and nuanced dynamic builds from spare tonal echoes to roilingly triumphant riffs that burst and rain down like ash following a volcanic eruption or like a dam bursting releasing a torrent of sonic water and debris. Its 2019 album Blood Year finds the band evoking ancient civilizations (“Kohokia”) and primal mythological imagery (“Hunter Moon” and “Ghost on High”). Opening the show is Chicago’s Facs. The latter is making the kind of post-rock that is more like some of the most experimental post-punk going now. Guitarist and vocalist Brian Case was once a member of weirdo math rock band 90 Day Men and experimental rock band Disappears. With Facs he and the rest of the band are pushing the creative envelope with song structure, texture and dynamics. That group’s 2019 EP Lifelike has a secure place on our year end best list for its chilling, cinematic soundscapes and gritty, stark, moody songwriting.
The Dandy Warhols are celebrating their twenty-five years together as a band with its current tour with a date on Tuesday, May 14, at The Gothic Theatre in Denver. In the 90s, The Dandys were undeniably one of the hippest bands in the American indie/underground whose imaginative records were always decidedly outside prevailing trends with a keen awareness of what was already being overdone. The band had then and has now a knack for discovering methods and sounds that could inspire themselves into consistently creating music that combined experimental elements with solid pop songcraft. Its psychedelic glam sound fused with electronic composition catapulted the band into the mainstream abroad and indie success in the USA by the turn of the century. Who hasn’t heard “Bohemian Like You” at some point? But the group’s entire catalog is worth exploring as the band has always tried to do something different with each album rather than stick with the dubious virtue of duplicating a previously successful formula.
The group’s new record, 2019’s Why You So Crazy, finds the band pushing its boundaries in an even more experimental direction with the electronic side of the songwriting taking center. At times the songs sound like a weirdo 70s library music funk track, other times like country folk rendered in futuristic tones, then minimalist ambient post-punk and all around one of the band’s most rewarding listens. Perfect for a band over two decades into its career and still endeavoring to forge new paths.
We recently had a chance to speak with the band’s frontman, the engaging and thoughtful Courtney Taylor-Taylor while he was at the 930 Club in Washington DC ahead of the group’s gig there. As you’ll read below, we talked about his days as a young musician and developing his craft of recording. We also discuss the inspirations behind the band’s recording/production space The Odditorium, how Why You So Crazy is a departure from earlier records, how the 70s was an era where no one seemed to know the rules of what was acceptable as widely accessible weirdness in music, film and television and Courtney’s thus far only graphic novel, the Baader-Meinhof and German art noise inspired One Model Nation.
Tom Murphy:You had bands before The Dandy Warhols.
Courtney Taylor-Taylor: But none that toured or released anything. I was a drummer who produced recordings and I would produce and write songs sometimes. So I learned to do all this stuff from the position of being a drummer. Pete moved back from New York City and moved in with me and talked me into making a band where I was singing, finally.
Did you grow up in Portland?
Yeah, we’re all Portland kids.
Where did you go to see stuff coming up?
Satyricon and Starry Night. Which is now called Roseland Theater. There was a great club called the Pine Street Theater which became an internationally known club called La Luna in the 90s during the grunge and indie era.
Did you see the Wipers.
No, I never saw the Wipers. Or maybe I did and didn’t remember. As a kid I was going downtown at fifteen at the time. It was a blur trying to get in and not get carded, sneak in the back. Just hanging out. So many bands, constantly seeing bands. My whole life has been devoted to rock and I have a lot of back stage and club…a whole lifetime. If I counted up the hours it would probably be fairly gross.
Obviously your band started up the Odditorium awhile back. Was it inspired in any way by DIY spaces in Portland?
That was completely inspired by two things. Andy Warhols Factory and Trent Reznor’s studio in New Orleans.
What about the Factory that inspired you?
When you know about the Factory it’s in your head forever. We had an apartment, Peter and I, that pretty much had people in and out of it all the time. Our freaky friends and our whole team was very Andy Warhol Factory-like, which is why we named our band that in the first place. So you always think of that, “We’ll have a Factory one day too.” When we went to Trent Reznor’s studio I was expecting some kind of really freaky, tripped out design. I walked in and it looked kind of like a suburban dentist’s office. Periwinkle trim and light mauve, beige and gray patterned wallpaper. Went into the kitchen and it definitely had a real suburban hotel-ish look to it, fluorescent lights. Except there’s all these dudes covered in tats with shaved heads wearing cowboy hats and black camo pants. They’re all just sitting on the counters and talking in super angry voices. That’s how they chit chat—angry, pissed off. I was like this is the most laden with irony rock and roll mullet I’ve ever experienced.
Just to be funny to break the ice with these guys, because I was introduced like, “Hey man, this is Courtney from The Dandys, you guys.” They look and don’t say anything and look back at Trent and keep barking at each other. I said, “Jeez, man, this is really nice, I wasn’t expecting this, did your mom decorate this, do the décor?” He said, “No, my girlfriend’s mom.” So I knew I that if I ever did have my own Factory going it was going to look like something off a 60s Star Trek set. I wanted extreme, I wanted super intense style in each room. That’s kind of what we did. The gray all lit by red rectangles set in the walls and hanging from the ceilings was my mixing room and I always referred to that as The Trent Reznor Room because I thought that would be his ultimate mixing room. The roof fell in on that a few years ago and I redesigned it to have amazing features in the geography of the room. It’s a lighter color because Zia was like, “Okay, that was fifteen years of that. Can I have a room that I can walk into and not go immediately to sleep?” “Oh, alright, I’ll lighten it up a bit.” So now it’s gray lit by amber rectangles of light. It’s a more clement shade of gray for getting things done in the afternoon.
You’ve opened the space to bands that aren’t famous.
Yeah, if they’re poor and cool and local. The Strokes have practiced there and recorded there. New York Dolls, Sylvain has recorded there. It’s just a place to go if you’re a band and you come through. A rock band. I don’t think a lot of pop bands have ever heard of us. Cage the Elephant and Foster the People were there on the same night. All the rockers from The Black Angels, obviously The Jonestown, Dinosaur Jr—everyone hangs out there. I also built a wine bar. We haven’t had in house management for a decade and I noticed the management offices had access to the sidewalk so I built a wine shop in there so that I have a place to go get drunk every once in awhile if I want to because I don’t waste my liver on hard spirits or beer. You’ve only got so much time in your life for alcohol in your body. I get wholesale prices and people bring me catalogs hoping I’ll buy wine from them at half of what it costs at the store so that’s been fun.
What part of town is it in?
It is in the Pearl District. I’m a West side kid and never really had a residence on the East side. It’s different over there. It’s where suburban kids’ bands come from so really not a lot of really great bands have come the West side. Back in the day the Hell Cows and Heatmiser and all those East side bands, Spinanes, the bands that would have most likely been on Kill Rock Stars. When those guys wore makeup they would have eyeliner and lipstick and smear it to be ironic. On the West side boys wore makeup to be pretty. I’ve managed to keep my life on that side. It’s sweet and cute and it’s safe for grandmas to retire there. I’m in the industrial part of it which has gone through a big change. Now it’s condo world around me. So instead of it’s the only building that looks like it’s kept up at all and now I look like the ghetto building compared to these new buildings, the Rock Gym, the space age event space and of course the massive, towering condos.
Portland probably looks different now compared to when I was last there a decade ago.
I think everywhere does. I’m sitting at the 930 Club now [in DC] and I don’t think we’ve been here for two years. This is sketch. I’ve seen really horrible fights between cabbies and pedestrians here. Now it’s condo world.
You’ve probably seen cities change a lot across your career.
Yeah, it’s our twenty-five year anniversary so I’ve seen the world grow more intensely upper middle class, it feels like. The Western world. London is so much nicer. New York is so much more cleaned up. I don’t know if the Midwest…I’ll see Chicago and Minneapolis soon.
Chicago is very different. I was there a few years back on tour with a band and they played at a place near where Cabrini Green used to be and it’s been torn out.
And they put up condos.
Yeah and I was thinking, “You’ve got to be kidding me!”
I probably never would have gone to Cabrini Green right because you’d get a cap busted in your ass.
Denver’s been going through something similar for awhile now too.
Denver got Portlanded really bad because you were the first state to have weed legalized. So you got hipstered super hard. Which is great because you have hipster food and hipster style. Unfortunately, finding an old cool house for $180,000 and rehabbing it is just not ever going to happen ever again in the United States unless you move to Tulsa.
Why You So Crazy seems fairly electronic in a lot of ways with almost sound design elements.
For sure. Peter and Brent have gone slowly deeper and deeper into super modern laptop methods of recording. We haven’t had a really electronically driven record since Welcome to the Monkey House. That, besides The Faint, Monkey House was the first major label kind of 80s throwback in the age of The White Stripes, The Strokes, Jet and The Vines and those great guitar bands going on. I was feeling a little tired of that so I went 80s electronic and really got into Gary Numan and Duran Duran’s first record. This record, Fat Head showed up with a bunch of songs that had Dr. Dre elements and Scientist dub electronic elements. We work the song for months or years and we’re always working in the studio. And we got to where it started to look like a record. I laid down the classical instruments with horns and lots of string instruments and hand drums and took it in a more organic direction. Then Pete came in and he had a bunch of new pedals that were super futurism in them and dirty as well. I guess the icing on the cake was going to be electronic too. It’s interesting how it made it possible to remove tons of redundant guitar tracks. Our record doesn’t sound like anybody else even though everybody is using electronics and real bass and guitar. We somehow managed to have a very outside the box sound.
With the band you’ve managed to stay ahead of the curve and even with mixing the electronic with the rock in the past. This is like a really different permutation of that.
Yeah, and I’m very excited that it wasn’t me doing it. Zia also playing real bass on half the record was great. She’s in a band with three pretty sick bass players for her to pick up the real bass and coming up with bass lines for these songs she had to be awesome at it. She just laid down the sickest bass lines of her life. Having sick bass lines makes mixing so much easier. You let the bass line carry it. You can thin out all the other instruments and you can really gauge what it’s going to sound like other stereos if it’s driven by nice, and tidy low end. If you have to bury the bottom end and if you’re using for warmth the low end of guitar or string pads or cellos or whatever it doesn’t tend to reproduce on the stereos of the world and the ways people listen to music is infinite. Also a synth bass is very uneven. When she plays the Korg it’s a beautiful sound but it’s fairly uneven sound and that’s a bear for me to get even mixes. The prime directive of the band is to not do or reflect anything that’s idiosyncratic of the current era. During the Jack White era with The White Stripes you listen to the radio and everyone sounds like The White Stripes. Wolfmother, everyone’s doing The White Stripes. And we didn’t really want to sound like that or The Strokes. Or The Shins—make sure you avoid any Shins-like elements at all. The Strokes provided a very difficult hi-hat couple of years for us. We can’t have a hi-hat because people will think The Strokes.
We didn’t want to have current references in our music. And you still have to create emotional power. It’s the other side of same side of the coin of the need to be unique, it dulls the emotional power when you hear something else current. At least for me it does and I’m pretty sure it does for Peter, Fat Head and Zia too. It makes you go, oh, you hear music and it immediately engages you and the guy comes on and he sounds like another famous singer and the guitar comes in and it sounds like someone else’s guitar. I don’t know who would have a huge guitar sound now except maybe Greta Van Fleet but then of course you think they’re just doing Jimmy Page. If it’s keyboard-y it’s like “That’s Imagine Dragons” because of the vocal production. Everyone’s a producer now having grown up with Garage Band and having access to powerful recording equipment.
I grew up with a cassette four-track as a teenager and that’s how I learned the job of making cool records. Just finishing a song at three in the morning and taking a huge bong rip, rewind and hit play and lay on my bed and close my eyes and have this perfect song that made me feel elevated, pure and clean of any problems or mistakes that I’ve made or are making or social foibles and resentments—that all went away. I could get five or seven minutes out of that with songs with vocal harmonies, doing that from fourteen-years-old to twenty-five when I formed The Dandys is why we had a completely developed sound out of the box with our first record. Clearly somebody knew their way around a studio. Back then it was myself and we built our own studios and recorded in them. We’ve never really made a record in a real studio. We mix in them but we never bothered to waste money to record in them. We cobbled together the gear would need and we used to find an empty warehouse and rent it for a grand a month and just start recording and spend a couple of years recording in there.
In ’02 we built our own studio. I bought a quarter of a city block in the homeless, shitty, no sidewalk part of town then remodeled it and that’s The Odditorium. We did videos in it, photo shoots, all the installations you need to get the job done—studio, recording rooms, mixing rooms, a bar, a smoking room, green screens, live performance room. We have an industrial kitchen and a dining room that seat about twenty so if we have friends over we have some chefs we can draw from.
Like a far more expanded version of what you were doing as a teenager.
Yup. Oh yeah, that is interesting. I remember taping sheets together to get a white, psych background. When I was in college I took dark room photography and studio photography and I did film and all that stuff so I kind of knew what I needed to do this job. Particularly for back then TV era when you needed to make a video for cheap that they would play on their alternative late night show. You need to be able to make a record that didn’t sound like it was trying to be slick and failing. If you were going to fail at being slick because you didn’t have the gear then great! Then you don’t have a choice, you can only be expected to make a cool record that you think is cool and have a strong opinion involved in the sound and that worked. It got us exactly where we wanted to be in the late 90s with bad kids staying up late watching MTV shows.
120 Minutes or whatever.
Yeah, those were the days.
You probably remember Night Flight as well.
Night Flight was great because they would show indie movies. So you could get more culture than just, “Oh, The Jesus and Mary Chain. Awesome.”
That and stuff like Fantastic Planet.
That was cool. A mind fuck.
Maybe something like Night Flight exists now but I don’t know about it.
Well, you have to dig. Dig through all the YouTube. Fortunately there is the genius connector elements that if you put in “Heavy Metal” you’ll also find Fantastic Planet which will come up underneath it. Do you remember Twentieth Century Oz? It’s The Wizard of Oz as an indie, 1976 Australian film. I think it’s this chick goes to see a local band and gets in the Volkswagon bus with them and she hits her head and the band is gone when she wakes up. She walks down the street trying to get back to where she’s from and she goes into a second hand clothing store and this big, queenie guy tells her she has to go see Oz because he’s playing his last concert and he can get her home. So she has to travel across Australia to see this guy called The Wizard, that’s his name. This trucker is trying to rape her the whole time trying to get her into his truck. She hitchhikes with this mechanic who’s the Tin Man and they accidentally run into this biker’s bike and he’s a nasty guy and she slaps him and he cries. It’s amazing. There’s something almost heartbreaking about the production level. Bruce Spence is the main guy she’s traveling with and he’s the scarecrow. He played the guy with the whirly copter in The Road Warrior. It’s a really interesting little peek into what the 70s were in a way I haven’t really seen ever.
It’s hard to convey exactly what it was like back then to anyone who grew up with having a lot of access to so much on the internet. Yellow Submarine would come on TV on one of maybe four or five television stations or Sid and Marty Krofft shows being so out there.
Right, Sid and Marty Krofft, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters. Nobody knew what the rules were. In the early 70s you had AC/DC and you had disco. You had Bowie, The Sweet. It was fucking pretty wacko. You’ve seen The Warriors? A queer gang movie. A hairdresser’s fantasy of what New York City gang world was like. How did that get made? And how did it get huge? It’s awesome. It’s more camp than a tent. It is unbelievable. There’s nothing else at all like it. Was it because of the cult of success of Rocky Horror Picture Show? Somehow gangs were a hot item and so “Rocky Horror Gangs.”
It is that level of weird. Like bizarre gangs that would never work in the real world.
Yeah, no. The Orphans. They’re all weak and pathetic and emaciated. I would hang out with that gang, I would go play Dungeons & Dragons with them.
You did a graphic novel called One Model Nation in 2009?
Me and my friend Donovan Leitch invented a German, art noise band that disappeared in 1978. Have you seen Rosencrantz & Gildenstern Are Dead? I took that theory, I told the story of the arc of the demise of the Baader-Meinhof Gang from the point of view of a rather insignificant or not remembered, historically forgotten band that was involved with them. And what their lives were like because of the existence of the Baader-Meinhof Gang and the increased government and police control over Germany because of it. They were like an industrial, electronic and noise band and they’re constantly being hassled and harangued and they start to believe they’re public enemy number one. They start to make decisions in the decisions they make because now they’re not just trying to be a band and artists and fulfill their vision of what they want themselves to be and how they want to be perceived. It’s sort of my “Here’s what I’ve learned as an artist” on a big scale. Just don’t listen to anyone else. Don’t try to control the press. You can’t control what other people do so don’t really get involved. Don’t let people make movies about you. Don’t do interviews with big press which has an ax to grind against you. It’s a lot of that stuff and lessons for life and how to make decisions about what’s really impossible. Is your ego and ambition getting the best of you or is it not? I let this band to be a platform to launch a subtext about how one should live if you’re a committed artist for life.
I did a good but spotty job on the dialogue and adapting it to graphic novel form. A lot of the quips come off pretty ham fisted. But I tried to have little dialogue and no exposition at all. No, “Meanwhile, blah blah blah.” No, fuck it, let the subtext do the talking. I wanted the thing to be told in pictures mostly and it has to be in a graphic novel. The version that came out on Titan Books is the good one. It’s the better one that got a little tighter with the dialogue and it has a lot of great extra stuff. That is all exposition, it’s just me stoner blabbing how it went down, why we did this and what was going on in my life. I’ve been told that’s more fun to read than the dialogue in the book. But the story is phenomenal and historically accurate too, the end of the terrorist era in Germany.
It’s also Nina Hagen, Klaus Nomi, Kraftwerk, Can, Neu, all those guys. We made the record as well. We went out to my country house and set up a lot of bicycle frames, pots and pans and hammers and made this clangy, bangy electronic record that’s supposed to be “The Collected Known Works 69-77” [released as Totalwerks, Vol. 1 (1969-1977)].
I read reviews of the record and I thought, “Did these people get it at all?” I thought it was pretty good.
Yeah, I listened to it the other day and its so good! The reviews from ten years ago? Now the dude from Thee Oh Sees made an electronic record, Malkmus just made an electronic record, The Decemberists. Everyone knows about German, electronic art noise now. Back then it was “Ten minutes of a bicycle going around and Russian numbers being randomly spoken into a microphone? This record sucks!”
One Model Nation’s music has some resonances for the new record with how electronic and different it was.
Definitely. When we made that record ten years ago no one was making anything noisy. A lot of people were sounding like Coldplay. I guess they still do if you listen to commercial radio. Coldplay is probably the biggest influence on how light in the loafers guitar bands have become now. A friend of mine, who is an engineer, calls it The Generation That Never Rocked. There is no Sabbath or Priest or not even cheese metal like Motley Crue.
I think there is a generation of musicians who have embraced that but it’s not too much in the more mainstream music realm.
I do love that. That anyone who’s good at a certain sound can make enough fans around the world to get in the van and go see it, go rock it, or trance it or house it or whatever they do. Coldplay it.
There’s a whole swathe of music that’s very polished in a way that I wouldn’t expect to come out of someone working on music in their bedroom.
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