Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Interview with Bo from Hand of Dust

It doesn’t take a brainiac to know that something is happening in Copenhagen. It seems that there are a lot of really good bands coming from one place, and one scene in particular. Iceage is the first band that comes to mind when elucidating this circle of musicians. They were the first band to really get the attention of United States listeners, but they weren’t complacent with just bringing over one band. A lot of this has to do with bands that share musicians, but it also has to do with a limited amount of practice spaces and music venues, as Bo from Hand of Dust explains below. (Nice Segue, Jordan)

I picked up Hand of Dust’s new 7” record Without Grace or Glory because it was released on Blind Prophet Records, which is pretty much a stamp that I’ll like it. Rats off to you, Sean. You’ve done it again.

The dirge-riddled bass line is an immediate indicator of what will come. “For I have read the short stories/Cut shorter by memories/I’ve seen it in the yellow leaves/Of dying family trees.” Death is a theme of this record, whether through the visible ghost of “Without Grace or Glory” or through the changing color of family tree leaves. It’s a serious record that muses on temporality, history, and personal future and there’s a reason that a lyric sheet comes with the record. Lyrics are clearly important to the band and it makes for a more rewarding listen.

They will be playing a show in L.A. with other Danish punk bands on May 16 & 17, which is going to be incredible. I'm debating flying out for it myself. You can check out more about that HERE

You can check out their FACEBOOK PAGE or listen to their music on their BANDCAMP PAGE

Jordan: First off, tell me a little bit about the Copenhagen music scene that you're coming out of. It seems like there is a lot going on right now around the area?

Bo: We rehearse at a place called Mayhem. This is also a venue for shows etc. I think the main thing about our bands is that none of us got together around a table and decided what "genre" of music we wanted to play or what band we wanted to sound like. This seems to be the case with a lot of the stale and empty music many rock bands play these days 

J: Who all is in Hand of Dust? How did you guys meet?

B: I’m the singer and guitarist in the band, Jesper plays bass and Victor drums. When we started playing together the idea was just to perform the songs i'd been writing and playing on my own, in a band setting. After playing together two or three times, it was obvious that this was a band and not just me backed by two friends. I still write the songs, but these days i never feel that anything is done before we've played it together. I always feel that the better i know somebody, the harder it gets to remember how i met them.

J: Your original demo tape came out a while ago. Tell me a little bit about how you made and recorded those songs.

B: Most of the songs on the tape are old and were written before we started the band. the tape was recorded through a mountain of mixes and cables on the floor of Mayhem, by our good friend Simon Van Deurs.  He did quite an amazing job considering the gear used and the amount of on the spot solutions he had to come up with.

J: Did you guys get to play live a lot after this came out?

B: “play live a lot" in Copenhagen isn't that much, as there aren't that many venues. The tape didn't have any kind of impact on us getting shows as most of the shows here are put up by friends or the bands themselves. I will say though that playing live shows is a very important thing for us and that songs always seems to come to me in the days after a show.

J: Have you guys played the US before?

B: No. I've never even been to the states, but Jesper and Victor have. On the 16.th and 17.th of May, Hand of dust, Lower, Communions, Iceage, Age Coin, Puce Mary, Girlseeker, Lust for Youth, Marching Church, Sexdrome, Croatian Armor, Sejr and Deeplands are all coming to the US to play the Church of York in L.A. I'm really looking forward to it, it's gonna be complete chaos.

J: You guys have a new 7" out. What was the process of recording that like? Who wrote the songs?

B: It was recorded in four hours, by Nis Bysted from ESCHO. The first day got canceled so recording was a bit stressed, but in all honesty i don't know what we would have done with a second day. Unless you’re Scott walker, I never understood how anyone could spend months or years recording. The songs were written by me and we tried to get in the studio as quickly as we could after figuring out how we wanted to play them. 

J: How did you decide to get in touch and work with Blind Prophet records?

B: We played a show in copenhagen with Cult of youth september last year. We just talked to Sean that night and after seeing him play live, we felt like this was a person who understood our way of playing music. When Sean is singing a song, he doesn't 
seem to have a choice on whether or not to give in to it. He doesn't think more then two or three seconds ahead. Thats exactly the way i feel. 

J: What is in the future for Hand of Dust?

B: We’ve just recorded two songs, to be released as a single. These songs are great examples of what's been happening in the band and we want to get them out as quickly as possible. How is still a bit uncertain. 

J: Anything else you'd like to say?

B: The brighter the eye, the darker the pupil.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Interview with Gary Wilson

Let me bend yours for a second. The rate at which knowledge is discovered is greater than the rate at which a single human being can intake new information. Thus, regardless of the amount of learning, listening, or thinking one does, one is getting progressively more ignorant by percentage as time goes on. I find it liberating. But it also means that we miss things. Luckily, other people find things you missed.

It seems to happen all the time. Music gets rediscovered, or maybe simply discovered. With movies like Searching for Sugarman and A Band Called Death supporting artistic resurgences, it seems like the next big thing is always lingering in the discounted used-record bin. It goes to show that a lot of influential (or simply good) music gets glossed over. My recommendation is to keep the ol' ear to the ground and refrain from sudden movements.

Gary Wilson is one of those who was passed over. When Gary's first album You Think You Really Know Me came out in 1977, not many people paid attention. Gary released a handful of EPs and singles in the 80s, but was relegated to playing as a backing musician in other bands and working odd jobs. In 2002, however, this album was re-released, promoting a new found fascination with Gary's music.

Since, Gary has released several full-length albums, played on the Late Night Show with Jimmy Fallon supported by the roots, and been a source of inspiration to many people. His music is a combination of all things pop, but also all things weird, as Gary illuminates in his love for both the Beatles and the Avant-garde below. Gary stands tall as one of the pioneering examples of home-recordings as well along with R. Stevie Moore and others, a movement that seems to become more inspiring and common today as music and other artistic mediums are readily accessible today.

You can check out his WEBSITE or see some of his music on the STONES THROW WEBSITE.

Jordan: When did you first begin making music?  

Gary Wilson: I wrote my first song when I was 10 years old.  My family had a large organ and several instruments around the house.  I was also trained throughout my school years on cello and string bass.  My father was a bass player with the local quartet.  At 11 years old, I taught myself how to play guitar.  This was when the Beatles came out.  I played in my first rock band when I was 12 years old.  I was playing Farfisa organ at the time.  

J: Did any artists or movements in particular inspire you?  

GW: When I was 10 years old, I was into Dion and The Belmonts, Fabian, Bobby Rydell, etc.  When the Beatles came out I was into the whole British invasion mode.  Then when I was 13 years old I got into avant-garde music.  My hero was composer John Cage.     

J: How did you decide to make your first 7" Dream(s)/Soul Travel? What was the response to it?

GW: I was 18 years old at the time.  I put an ad in the local newspaper asking for a backer for a record.  A doctor from Binghamton, NY answered the ad and put up the money for the single.  I did get a publishing deal with a NY music publisher.  It was during a time when a lot of jazz artists were putting out instrumental disco singles and albums.  The single recently appeared on an Adult Swim TV commercial. 

J: What was the process of writing and recording You Think You Really Know Me, your first full-length record?   

GW: In 1975 I sent demos of my album YTYRKM to a music publisher in Woodstock, NY.  He passed the demos onto singer-songwriter Robbie Dupree.  Robbie invited me to Bearsville Studios near Woodstock to record YTYRKM.  Robbie's career took off so he didn't have the time to finish the project.  I went back to my home studio and for about 6 months worked on the album.  I finished it in late 1976 and pressed it in 1977. 

J: What did people initially say about that record?

GW: My friends liked the record but some others thought it was too weird.  I had a manager at the time in NYC (Seth Greenky).  He shopped the album around to the major labels in NY.  It was always the same story.  They liked the album but could not figure how to market it.  It's funny.  I have recently heard from some of those same A&R people and they tell me how much they liked my album and still cling to the original YTYRKM album. Not sure why they thought they couldn't market it.  A few radio stations also played the album, but only a few. 

J: Has perception of it changed since you put it out? 

GW: When the album was re-released in 2002 everything pretty much changed.  Now everyone wanted a copy of my album.  I am very happy that things have turned around.

J: You kind of retired after putting that record out before more recently coming back to performing live and recording. Why did you do that? 

GW: I didn't really retire, but just accepted my fate.  It was that people weren't paying attention or were not interested. I put out a couple of singles and EPs in the early 1980s and did some live shows.  My girlfriend Bernadette Allen was a grad student at UCSD so we did a lot of experimental art, music and video. Ended up in the early 1980s playing bass with Roy Brown, Percy Mayfield, Big Jay McNeely and others and even played bass with Coasters.

J: Did you ever want to put out more music? 

GW: Yes.  I tried to get labels interested but never got a bite.  Bought a 4 channel Tascam cassette machine and recorded things.  My album "Mary Had Brown Hair" was recorded on my Tascam 4 channel cassette.

J: What has the response been to your new musical endeavors?  

GW: It seems good so far.  I have a new album coming out called Alone with Gary Wilson.  A single from the album has just been released in San Diego on a label called Rita Records.

J: You have also been performing live. What are your live shows like? Is there anything that you like to do in particular? 

GW: Every show has its own dynamics.  A lot of times I don't know what I look like before the show because I like to “transform” in private. I may end up in the backseat of a car changing or “transforming” for the show.   I guess I try to turn myself into a living canvas. 

J: How was it playing in shows with R. Stevie Moore? 

GW: I had a good time playing with R. Stevie Moore.  The two shows were sold out.  I asked Stevie if he remembers us trading albums in 1977. We will be doing more shows together in the future. 

J: Does it make you happy to be making and playing music again? 

GW: Yes. Who would have expected things to turn around for me after so many years? I’m very happy and humbled by the whole experience.

J: What have been some of the highlights of your career in your opinion? Are there any moments that stand out in particular? 

GW: The Joe's Pub gig in 2002. The showing of the Gary Wilson documentary at Lincoln Center in NY.  Playing CBGBs in 1977-1979. Going to Europe and playing 8 countries in 10 days.  Having The Roots back me up when I appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. There have been so many exciting moments that have happened to me since 2002. I have met many creative people along the way. 

J: What is in the future for Gary Wilson? 

GW: More live shows, more records and more music.

J: Anything else you'd like to say? 

GW: Do unto others as you have done to you.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Interview with Noah Coleman of Oyarsa, Monument, and Sol Y Nieve Records

Oyarsa's s/t cassette was one of the first modern tapes that I picked up. I ordered it online after seeing one of the dudes at Permanent Records wearing an Oyarsa shirt and being curious about what it was. In my book, a tape is a tape - it generally doesn't hurt to buy one since it's cheap and you get a good recording. You don't have much to lose when you buy a tape. I had listened to the recording on my computer, but it sounded much better on cassette.

They played their "last show" in Chicago at the Empty Bottle on May 9, 2013. It was a free show and I went as I had been in communication with Noah and didn't want to miss out. I got to see Winters In Osaka and Sun Splitter put on great sets before Oyarsa stepped on stage. Nothing could have properly prepared me for Oyarsa, however. Noah has one of the best black metal voices I've heard. To get a better perspective on their sound, their music is available for free download on their BANDCAMP.

After the show, I picked up the cassette of Footpath's self-titled album, which was a folk-drone act that I hadn't heard. I still listen to it probably once a week as I read. I hadn't known that Noah ran a record label, but have since been consistently impressed with Sol y Nieve's output after listening to most of the releases on the label.

You can check out Sol y Nieve on FACEBOOK as well as OYARSA. Noah recently moved to Idaho, so we didn't get to hang out all that much, but we've stayed in contact and with a busy release schedule coming up, I figured it was a good time to get the word out on an excellent label!

Jordan: Tell me a little bit about your musical projects. I'm familiar with Oyarsa, your black metal band, but what else are you involved in?

Noah: Aside from Oyarsa and Monument, I've released music as Ten Thousand Miles of Arteries and He of No Name.  I have some other projects in the works, but i'd rather not reveal any names until something final comes about.

J: How did you decide to create each of your projects?

N: They happen pretty naturally.  Just about everything I do starts off as an experiment and if I like the way it develops, I go with it.  The only exception to that is Oyarsa, which is the only proper band i've been a part of.  That started out of a mutual love of heavy music and all things space related between Josh and I.  Josh is really the catalyst for making that band happen.

J: How often do you end up writing songs? How many songs would you say that you write in a year?

N: Ha ha ha.  I have no idea how to answer that question.  A lot.  It's a pretty constant thing for me.  Obviously, most of the stuff I write doesn't get used, at least not right away, but I'll go through 2 or 3 notebooks in a year that are filled with drawings, writings, lyrics, riffs, music, etc.

J: How do you write your lyrics? 

N: They mostly start as stream of consciousness writings, and then (depending on the project that they get used for) I'll edit them down, rearrange them, add to them, etc. to make them fit whatever music I wind up putting them to.

J: How important are lyrics to you in music?

N: Equally, if not more, important.  The lyrics are why I write the music.

J: I got to see Oyarsa's "last show" in Chicago. It was awesome. Do you plan on playing live more?

N: Thank you, it was a very intense and enjoyable show for us.  We do plan on playing live, but with me moving to northern Idaho and Josh recently moving to LA, performances will be few and far between.  We have a fair amount of new material so we want to record first, then hopefully plan a couple of shows around that.

J: What have you been concentrating on musically?

N: Mostly I've been working on finishing up the new Monument album.  I've also started on some new T.T.M.O.A. material, and I've been demoing material for some new projects.  

J: You seem to have a pretty wide variety of influences, and interests. What are some of your favorite artists?

N: That's a loaded question.  Current 93, Lurker of Chalice, Leviathan, Wovenhand, Swans, Portal, Mitochondrion, Prurient, Graves at Sea, Iron Maiden, The Body, Arvo Part, Yellow Eyes, Willy Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash.  I could put on anything by any of those artists at any point and not be disappointed.

J: You recently moved to Idaho. How come you chose to do that? How has that been? Seems like a pretty big transition from Chicago.

N: Without going too much into my private life, my wife and I decided a few years back that we didn't want to live the rest of our lives in a city where we felt we had no freedom to do the things we wanted to.  Northern Idaho is really beautiful and fairly inexpensive so we chose here.  It has the benefit of being pretty close to Seattle as well, so we can get our 'cultural fix' (i.e. - go to shows and eat interesting food) whenever we feel like taking a small road trip.  The transition wasn't nearly as big as we though it would be.

J: What have been some of the biggest surprises about Idaho? I've never been, so from a selfish standpoint, I just want to soak in all the knowledge I can from you haha.

N: I still haven't gotten used to seeing mountains everywhere I go, smelling fresh air and woodstove/fireplace smoke first thing in the morning, and how quiet it is at night.  

J: When/how did you start your label Sol y Nieve?

N: I started it in 2010, mostly as a way for me to release my own recordings.  When those first two tapes sold well enough, I realized that I could turn it into a real label. I started contacting bands who I really enjoyed (Teeth Engraved... and Yellow Eyes were among the first) but weren't getting the kind of exposure and physical production that I thought they deserved. It all kind of took off from there.

J: What all have you released on the label?

N: Aside from my own recordings, I've released recordings from Teeth Engraved With the Names of the Dead, Yellow Eyes, Dead Dragon Mountain, Footpaths, Golden Fawn, Nemorensis, and Hellebore.

J: How do you decide on what you're going to put out?

N: I only release albums that I would buy myself. It has to be something that I can listen to over and over again for a week and still think it's great.

J: What have you been working on in regards to Sol y Nieve? Any upcoming releases that you can talk about?

N: This year is turning out to be my busiest yet. I have two tapes currently in production: Sun Splitter - Live On WFMU and Crowhurst - Everyone Is Guilty. Those will hopefully be released late March. After that, I will be releasing the 10 year anniversary edition of Krieg's classic album "The Black House". I'm really excited about that as Krieg was one of the first black metal bands I got into. Also lined up for this year is new material by Esoterica, Dead Dragon Mountain, LOCI, and Essene. There might be more, but this is all that's confirmed right now.

J: Do you have any other artistic pursuits? Anything you're especially proud of?

N: I enjoy sewing and leather work. I also draw occasionally.

J: Anything else you'd like to say?

N: Thanks for your interest in my music and the label, Jordan. I appreciate all your support.