Sunday, August 31, 2014

Release of the Day: Young Charlatans - Demo

Songs don’t get much better than “Shivers,” a song written by Rowland S. Howard originally for his band Young Charlatans in 1978. This song was eventually made famous by The Boys Next Door, in which Howard played guitar. The documentary Autoluminescent, named after Rowland S. Howard’s song on his tour de force Teenage Snuff Film, talks a bit about this song. The Boys Next Door was Nick Cave’s first band and naturally Nick sang the songs. The crux lies in the fact that Rowland had written “Shivers,” but Nick sang it. There’s a really weird music video where Cave has these evocative, swirling hand motions as he croons Howard’s lyrics. But Rowland is barely in the video, though he appears forlorn, aloof, and more than anything alone out of a cornered shot, like one of those lions padding back and forth behind the glass in a much-too-small cage in the big cats section of the zoo. It’s uncanny, and downright sad. 

This would be a trend in Howard’s career - something similar to being snubbed. It didn’t take long for Howard to get into junk, which alienated him from a band that revelled in drug use, as the Boys Next Door took a postpunk turn into becoming the Birthday Party. As the band became Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Rowland was kicked out because of drug use and unreliability, though his angular, sinister guitar sound was deeply influential to the Birthday Party as well as postpunk music.

But this demo is where Howard started, before the Boys Next Door, before Crime & The City Solution, before his collaboration with Lydia Lunch or Nikki Sudden, before his solo career. And you can hear similarities to his eventual solo career, albeit with a noisier edge.

You can download the tape for free on the Rowland S Howard Fanpage

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Release of the Day: Yellow Tears - Golden Showers May Bring Flowers

"Box set comes with key chain flash drive in a jewelry box, VHS, T-shirt, track listing insert, lifeguard card." It's a bit of an audiovisual-tactile-wearable album centered around a mythical freak water park and a lot of urine references. At some points, it's juvenile kicks, but that's part of the charm. This album has a lot going on in it. Obvious Musique concrète as a starting point, but there's a clear reverence for mood and technique. The juvenilia of something like "Wanna Watch my Favorite TV Show" will juxtapose the strange beauty of the track "Fountains' Song." This is a recurring motif in Golden Showers May Bring Flowers and it's indicative of a probing interest in sound and the way that human beings connect.

I haven't yet seen the VHS tape. In all honesty, I don't even have a VCR, but I think I need to get one for this. A lot of my friends who have seen it are saying that it's the best part.

Yellow Tears just played a Nothing Changes event in New York. I saw some pictures, which included some kind of water-park-like rig. One of the dudes was in a snorkling mask in like a mobile showering unit. I wonder what the liquid was. It was probably not clean. It was probably awesome. I really hope I get to see them soon - if they don't tour around the country, a trip to NYC may be in my future.

You can learn more about the filthy fucks on the Septic World Facebook Page and their Website. Warning: the website is an incredible Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole into the world of Hosetown. Like alternative reality. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Release of the Day: The People's Temple Choir - He's Able

The story of the mass suicide at Jonestown is something like a nightmare bedtime story. A highly charismatic religious figure named Jim Jones, over the course of many years, accrued a fanatic following from people in the mainland states (including over a dozen locations in california!) before he moved his church to what was called the “People’s Temple Agricultural Project in Guyana. His church was called The People’s Temple of the Disciples of Christ. To make a long story short, Jones eventually gets his entire population of followers in Jonestown to “drink the kook-aid” and commit suicide with him and for him. Around 920 people died.

But there’s this uncanny lighter side to the People’s Temple as well. The music for instance. Jim Jones was obsessed with gospel music. And his church made some great gospel music. A lot of it sounds like what you might hear in a Southern Baptist church on any given Sunday, but there’s this creeping dread that I get when I hear words like “the Lord,” “Him” with a capital H, “God,” and more. Are they referring to an actual cosmic entity or are they talking about Jones?

He’s Able is a long out-of-print LP with songs from The People’s Temple Choir with many of these gospel songs. It would be an uplifting, pleasant listen without the backstory, but the backstory makes it that much more interesting. A new cassette reissue has Jim Jones’ final speech during the murder/suicide at Jonestown on November 18, 1978. Not something for the faint of heart, but a very interesting historical time capsule and something that will stay with me for a long time.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Release of the Day: Masonna - Spectrum Ripper

Your stomach is mad at you because you decided to take a dare and eat steel nails, washers, widgets, and wingnuts in a bowl of skim milk. Don't ask me why you did - I'm not a doctor, but it was that ne'erdowell Leon (the one who sits in the back of the class and sighs out "big deal" every time someone gets a multiplication problem right) who triple-dog-does-the-backflip dared you to do it. And let's face it, you're no one's punk bitch, so you ate all of that metal.

Only problem is it's making an awful ruckus as you're walking around and even Mrs. Gertrudestein, who drives the school bus, said something about it - "shut your fucking stomach up." What Mrs. Gertrudestein doesn't understand is that when you needed to get a stomach transplant, your family couldn't afford something with an organic(ish) membrane, so they opted for the more financially friendly model that was made entirely out of copper. These steel machinery parts are rolling around your copper stomach making a hell of a lot of noise.

And then at recess, Troublemaker Tommy pushes you into a wall asking why the hell you were looking at Suzy Jenkins ("that's my girl, man!") and he's shouting and starting to rev his foot on the ground like a bull aiming for the matador. Toro! Toro! He's leaning into it, careening towards you. Head lowered. Not so elegantly sloped shoulders. A huff. A wheeze. His head plows into you and you gasp, gawk, and grunt. The impact dislodges a lingering wingnut from your esophagus while he holds you pinned there against the brick wall by the jungle gym. He yells into your navel with indistinguishable jargon.

And that's when you think that Tommy's undefined yelling, combined with the racket in your stomach, sounds exactly like that Masonna album Spectrum Ripper that you were listening to last night.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Release of the Day: Lust for Youth - Sickness + Demo

Lust for Youth began as the solo project of Hannes Norrvide. His early work is characterized by meditative synthesizer and noise amalgamation. There were only very minor hints of the techno-pop that Lust for Youth would become. By that I mean that there is limited vocal usage and the words are hard to discern other than what I believe is one passage of a female vocal sample. The things that appear on this release are more sonic paintings than songs as they are typically thought. There are sections of ambience here - strung out orchestrations of electronic musicianship. A curiosity. A probing finger or two. A blindfolded minor odyssey.

The project is now a three-piece with Loke Rahbek (of Croation Amor, Sexdrome, and more) and Malthe Fischer (of Oh No Ono) with pop songs - really great pop songs. But this early synthesizer work is important. The instrumental experimentation informs the eventual output in addition to being noise(ish) work that can stand on its own. I’m unsure if there are any links to songs on YouTube, but copies sometimes appear on Discogs. Definitely worth a search and listen.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Release of the Day: Ty Segall - Manipulator

Ty Segall’s Melted was one of the records that changed my life. I remember the day very well. It was when Bull City Records was still next to Cosmic Cantina, above the Avid video near Ninth Street. I had been dabbling around in 90s indie rock like Sebadoh, Dinosaur jr., Pixies, and Ween, but really hadn’t gotten into anything that underground. One day, and I still don’t remember exactly what happened, but I had just started my junior year in college, which was the first year I brought my turntable to college, and Chaz did the usual “listen to these records that you should like.” But he didn’t put on the typical indie stuff I had been listening to. He started out by playing King Khan & the BBQ Show’s Invisible Girl. One thing led to another and I walked out of the store with four records that basically made me love garage rock. Jay Reatard’s 2008 Matador Singles, King Khan & The BBQ Show’s Invisible Girl, Nobunny’s First Blood, and Ty Segall’s Melted, which he said I’d like because it had a lot of grunge elements (and to this day, Nirvana is still my favorite band, even though I think it’s hip to hate on them now).

Four years later, and seven or eight full-lengths with Segall’s fingers in them, Ty still manages to wow me. Manipulator, his new 2 x LP on indie powerhouse label Drag City, is all-killer-no-filler. It’s the kind of record that can get an indie kid into T. Rex, Hawkwind, The Zombies, David Bowie, and a fuckton more good bands. “Where do these influences come from?” someone new might ask. The answer? In the fuckin’ bins, dog. Dig yourself, Lazarus, dig! This release has seventeen songs from all sorts of rock n’ roll lineage and it tore off the influences from its arm patch and decided to iron them onto its face like a Mike Tyson tattoo. Did you see that teaser video? The one where Ty’s like straight rollin’ around in a limo with makeup and rhinestone teardrops? That shit is awesome. This shit is awesome.

I could say something profound about genre and music culture as a whole, cause that’s what muddatruckin’ professional reviews do but let’s be honest. Music criticism is lame and filled with creative jealousy. Fuck it. This record is great. Long live rock n’ roll. Long live Ty Segall! Long live the Manipulator!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Release of the Day: Running - Frizzled 7"

I'm still pretty happy that I have one of the only interviews with Running available to see - I saw those cats with Gary War back in 2012 just as I had moved to Chicago and it made a big impression. I don't know how many times I've seen them since, but not enough that's for sure. Side note: I would like to make an Alejandro Morales tribute band, but I need someone to play with me because I suck at Kazoo. Also, it would be called Cholo and the Cholos.

Last year, Running put out their tour de force Vaguely Ethnic on Castle Face records. It's a quick, nine-song blast into the tripped-out fuzz of these Chicago weirdo punk rockers. This year, they put out a three-song 7" on Drag City called "Frizzled." Music writers are supposed to avoid vague words like "good" or "awesome" or "cocaine," but that's exactly what this record is. It's fucking awesome. I listen to it before I run a lot - I'm straight edge, so this is as close to drugs as I get, for better or for worse.

That song "Totally Fired" on the b-side of this record is one of their better songs. It also has this weird scratchy sound that comes in a few times towards the end. And I thought my copy was busted for a while, but I heard it on soundcloud too so I know that these cats are just fucking with me. See if I care. Am I pretty yet?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Release of the Day: Various Adversaries - Around the Dragon's Broken Neck Hangs The Medal of Saint Lazarus

ATDBNHTMOSL was the first thing I bought from Hospital Productions, Dominick Fernow’s excellent label that releases everything on the darker wavelength of the music spectrum. I bought this cassette because of the Contrepoison songs - “I Keep on Searching” was something of a transformative song for me. A lot of the beauty lies in the simplicity, but it was also hearing that someone could make such a powerful song without a ton of resources. It probably changed the way I approached music on the whole.

This was my first foray into power electronics and industrial noise. I never really looked at the track list on this 2 x CS until recently. And my friend Erik is on there as Kama Rupa. This sounds totally ignorant, but I just had no idea. It’s funny how after a few years sometimes you become more acquainted with surrounding details that can make a piece of work more meaningful. I bought the 2 x CS because of the poppy song “I Keep on Searching,” and while that had a lot of impact, I’m equally impressed by the noise and electronic work of some of the other artists on here. Alberich, Blus De La Lum, FFH, Kama Rupa, Lussuria, Prurient, and Vatican Shadow all make appearances. It’s a great opening to the Hospital Productions roster.

Surprisingly, it's on Spotify too so you can listen to it Here

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Interview with Unmanned Ship

Doesn't the phrase "Unmanned Ship" have a bit of the mystique attached to it? I always think that "unmanned ship" would be used when a ship is expected to be manned - like it was careening over a lofty wave before settling into port, but no one was on board. Cause, like, there are ships in a harbor without people, but you wouldn't call it an unmanned ship - you'd just call it a ship. The name implies mystery, as does the band's music, but in reality, Kevin, Bill, and Dan are all very up front about their music, the band, and what is in their future.

The most easily attainable material from the band is their LP For Whom the Bowl Tolls on Rotted Tooth Recordings. They've also put out a couple tapes and some CD-Rs, but I don't know where or how you'd find those. Unmanned Ship creates a sonically expansive kind of music with clear psychedelic resonance. It's heavy. It's loud. And it's big. The band has written and recorded more songs than they've released - that said, many new songs are played in a live setting, which is my preferred method of listening, especially to massive, instrumental music.

I met Kevin through his other band Oozing Wound and got to know his music as Unmanned Ship afterwards. I only recently saw them for my first time, though, and I was really impressed. These guys play really well together, and are clearly in tune with each other, which is what separates a good psych band from a great psych band. We met at the Orbit Room for some Tiki-Tickle-Time and food. Dig em on their Facebook Profile, buy their record, which is linked above, and go see one of their shows.

Jordan: How was your practice session?

Kevin: It was fun, chill. It was nice to play in more of a daytime thing.

J: Are you gearing up for something?

K: No. Well, we have a show on the 29th of September at Emporium the barcade. The next couple of months are busy. We’d like to play a bunch of shows, but we’re all going to friends’ weddings and stuff throughout September.

Bill: Big wedding month.

K: Seems like everyone we know is getting married.

B: We’re going to master a two-song record on Wednesday that we’re putting out with Maximum Pelt. 

K: Ian, the guy who runs Wally World, has been putting out some records by the Funs and Lil Tits and Mines and stuff. He’s going to press this 7” with a couple songs that we had left over from the LP we put out on Rotted Tooth.

J: How long are the songs?

K: Like 6 minutes and 5 minutes.

J: So it’ll be a 33 rpm 7”?

B: Totally.

J: Have you done much else other than the LP?

K: Like two tapes and a weird CD-R thing from back in 2005.

B: It was a collage of a bunch of 4-track stuff that we would do. We’d do like 10 CD-Rs wrapped in...what did you used to wrap them in? Sweaters?

K: Yeah, they were like sweater cases. We’d throw em out at shows.

J: Where’d you get the sweaters?

K: Like thrift stores, but they’d be unravelling and stuff. But other than the LP that’s about it.

J: Do you have thoughts of recording another LP?

K: We actually have one recorded that we just finished mixing. We don’t know who will put it out yet. Ideally, we have another one that can be recorded in the winter.

J: Like, you’re still writing songs?

K: Yeah, we’re sort of behind all the records we put out by like two years. Hopefully by the end of winter, we’ll have like three songs done, but only one of them will be out - ideally it’d come out like next summer. Lots on the horizon, but we’re a pretty casual band.

B: It always ends up being that someone wants to put it out and we’ll jump for it.

Dan: Then we wait six months. What always happens is someone hints they want to put it out and then a year from that day it’ll come out. Then we’ll play like one or two of those songs live. Even these two songs on the 7” we stopped playing like two or three years ago.

K: And we only play like two songs off the new album that’s ready to come out.

B: It’s more like we’re two years ahead of ourselves.

J: So your show at the bottle was stuff for the third LP?

D: Some of it was. Two of the songs were.

K: Ten minutes worth or so.

B: The new record is going to be a mindblower though.

K: Yeah, it’s great.

J: Do you guys have artwork done?

K: No, but we have a title.

J: What’s the title?

K: No More Digital Blood.

J: I like it. I agree with the sentiment.

B: We have a new video too. I don’t know if you saw it yet.

J: Is it a new song?

K: It’s a No More Digital Blood song recorded live in the Situations garage.

J: Oh cool. Do you guys all live there or is it just you?

K: Just me. It’s a weird place.

J: I like the colors.

K: Thanks.

J: I’m amazed that the guys in like Club Rectum all live there. So many strong personalities in one place.

K: It’s hard to do, having a communal space that also puts on shows and ends up being a practice space with your roommates. Those guys can handle it, though, cause they’re crazy.

J: I was just talking to Zack [in Oozing Wound] about the Oozing Wound split with Black Pus at that Dark Entries show at the Bottle and how I hadn’t heard Lightning Bolt or Black Pus before and he was like “really?”

K: Oh, was he like “REALLY?”

J: Yeah, totally.

K: Yeah, Lightning Bolt was definitely an early influence. I got into them around 2003 or 2004 after Wonderful Rainbow came out and I didn’t even know that they were a duo.

B: Well, I remember watching that documentary at your guys’ place. That had to be like 2005 or 2006.

K: That was right when Hypermagic Mountain came out. I saw them pretty much by accident at a Califone show at the Empty Bottle in 2003 or something. They were really good, both of those Brians. Really crazy. It’s just nasty music. My grandma wouldn’t hear a difference between them and Cannibal Corpse, but those dudes are so positive too. Not outwardly, but in their tunes. You know that they’re having a good time. That struck me. You don’t see many bands that play harsh shit but are also into having fun.

J: Yeah, they’d be more likely to be into like heroin.

K: Heroin, pain, destruction, fights, aggro-nation. If they weren’t in the noise scene, though, they’d be jocks at a frathouse, but it just so happens that they’re into weirdo punk rock.

J: Do you think that mindset influences you guys?

K: That’s definitely why I was attracted to it. I relate to it. I like abrasive, loud music.

B: We’re all metalheads at heart, but we embrace the positive energy from people and getting buzzed. We like the dark stuff, but we’re not addicted to it.

K: Some people get totally addicted to it - they can’t get out of it. The deep, dark, mouth of madness depths. You can only get so much out of that stuff.

J: One thing leads to another and then you’re watching kids get run over by cars or some shit.

B: We just like to hole up in practice space, write tunes, and smoke a bunch. We should be putting out a record every six months, but we can’t do that.

J: Cause of financial stuff?

B: We’d just rather have powerful songs than farting in front of a micrphone.

K: We sort of move at a glacial place. There are some songs that I’m baffled at their existence.

B: It’s almost like they grow legs and walk into the studio when they’re ready.

K: It’s not really conducive to a John Dwyer method.

J: I have no idea how he does it.

K: There must have been a time period when he just recorded a shit ton and had the opportunity to finish it up. But maybe he is constantly writing non-stop. It’s admirable. It’s insane, but it’s more insane that he can do it and not be watered down.

J: Obnox kind of does that too. He’s got at least one record out each year. How’d you guys get into psych?

K: I was never really...

B: Out of it?

K: (laughs) Yeah I was never really out of it. I always liked trippy shit.

B: My dad basically raised me on Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, the original dark psychers. I was definitely drawn to the psych stuff.

D: It’s like, how soon did you get that delay pedal?

K: That’s what it is.

D: When you get the delay pedal simultaneous with your first bass, you get into psych. Remember those first shows? This was like back, way back. Kevin would be doing something like solo in high school. (sings a little bass riff) with massive delay.

B: When you start using effects as instruments.

K: I never really thought of it as “I’m into psych stuff.” I more thought “I like my mom’s old records and these nasty weird bands and these local Chicago bands that don’t even relate to each other in a genre way.” But I was always playing weird, trippy stuff from the get-go because it was fun. Maybe we are getting more psychedelic though. Our third album is tentatively titled Psychedelic Staycation.

D: I don’t think our last album was that psychy...It was like a quarter or a third psychy.

B: I’d say that you get into the surf rock a bit - there’s some psych surf stuff in there.

D: It’s like one part psych, one part rock, one part....

B: Mystery. There’s your tagline right there. “One Part Psych, One Part Rock, One Part Mystery.”

Release of the Day: White Fence vols. 1 & 2

On the little slip of paper inside the cassette version of this record is a poignant quote from Tim Presley: “Remember, the more silverware you get the lazier you become” in capital letters. What does that mean? And why is it in my dang cassette? Well, a surface level answer would be that there is something definitely whimsical about White Fence. A ramshackle philosophy lesson in questioning basic assumptions. And let's face the facts - eating with your bare hands rocks.

White Fence tends to put out at least one record a year and often more than a single LP.  Many bloggers commended Ty Segall for putting out three different projects in 2012, but so did Tim Presley. These were Hair, the collaborative album with Segall, Family Perfume vol. 1, and Family Perfume vol. 1. In my opinion, these albums were just as noteworthy as Segall’s, though for some reason, Presley has seemed to elude Segall’s success in mainstream press.

Family Perfume Vols. 1 & 2 employ a mellow psychedelia that meanders from near lullaby in “Balance Your Heart” to rock n’ roll parade in “Swagger Vets and Double Moon.” His live show, on the other hand, presents him at a louder volume. Castle Face records recently put out a live White Fence album, which has a rendition of “Swagger Vets and Double Moon,” albeit at a louder volume. It goes to show that these songs come from a study of the Sex Pistols just as much as the Beatles, which are some great influences to have by the way.

I like to think of having something like a song saloon in my head where good songs go to grab a drink, stretch out, enjoy the free massages, and linger. And Tim Presley writes a lot of the inhabitants that post up at the bar.

White Fence is back in Chicago in October at the Subterranean! Go to it! Tickets

Friday, August 22, 2014

Release of the Day: Total Control - Typical System

Typical  System is an album that deals with themes and moments, which often are crystallizations of those themes. For instance, mortality and escape are themes. In “Flesh War,” Total Control creates a downright epiphany of a chorus. There is a continual reminder of restraint and release by way of vocal cues, an inclusion of a keyboard section, and something pretty close to an explanation of how to escape, even though it may not be an easy one. This moment of change between chorus and verse is an example of the crystallization that seems to continually pop up throughout the album. Lyrical and instrumental pairing is done tastefully and artfully, making for memorable songs, transitions, endings, and beginnings.

I have listened to this record a lot – a ghastly, obscene amount – and it has never done anything but continue to floor me. There’s this group of lines in the first song “Bloody Glass” that go “String up/The Cowards/String up/The Thieves/Drown their children/In the fountains/Write a book/To plague their memory.” The immediate takeaway from these lines is an undeniable ode to the visceral, the vicious, and the violent. But there’s a much more important distinction Total Control makes here, which is a group of humans – let’s call it “us” – against a nameless other institutionalized force represented by “cowards,” “thieves,” and “billionaires.” This other isn’t necessarily a “you,” but the unsettling thing is that the listener is required to look into his or herself just because it might be.

Give it a spin on the Iron Lung Records Bandcamp and then buy it. You're going to want it in your collection.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Interview with Apache Dropout

It had to be in early 2011 when I first listened to Apache Dropout. At the time, I was in college at Duke and was digging my fingers into anything that even had the scent of garage rock wafting from it. The greatest thing about being a multi-tasking English major was honing the ability to read and listen to music at the same time, thereby allowing me to soak in information from two different sources at once. I always had a bare-bones living situation with a bed, a chair, and then my turntable and record collection. Chaz from Bull City Records turned me on to Apache Dropout after one of my extended listening sessions. Chaz would always put on an assortment of records he thought I'd dig sometimes for hours at a time, but it was very much appreciated. I think everyone in the Triangle Area dug hard into this band pretty much immediately - I think I remember them playing the Casbah with Last Year's Men, another great band that should be listened to.

After I moved to Chicago, Bill and Lisa Roe of Trouble in Mind put out the band's great sophomore record Bubblegum Graveyard, a more poppy affair in my opinion, but equally great. Also, this record clearly has an example of Undead Jughead before the Afterlife with Archie comic existed. Coincidence? Stay tuned, sportsfans. I got the cassette release of Bubblegum Graveyard and used to walk my sales route listening to this on my walkman when I was a beer salesman. It definitely made the cold Chicago winter a bit easier to deal with.

The band is now putting out their third full-length album Heavy Window on Magnetic South, the Bloomington label headed up by Seth Mahern of Apache Dropout and John Dawson of Thee Open Sex. The first 500 copies of the record feature glow-in-the-dark eyes so you know you need to get one of those copies. Toss these guys a "like" on Facebook too so the world knows you're cool.

Jordan Reyes: I've always been curious about Bloomington just because there are so many great bands that come from there, including people currently or previously on your roster like yourselves, Thee Open Sex, Circuit Des Yeux, and Thee Tsunamis. TV Ghost is also a totally standout band in my opinion. I know that it's a college town, but is there much overlap from the people who go to school there and the bands that come out of Bloomington?

Seth Mahern: There's certainly some bands in town that have university students.  Most bands seem to have more graduates or dropouts.  TV Ghost is from Laffayette, Indiana.

JR: Do you think you guys would ever move from Bloomington?

SM: There's been talk. Who knows? Sonny Blood already did. He's been living in Indianapolis for a year now.

JR: Magnetic South puts out a ton of different kinds of records. I've heard noise, rock, and punk from the label. Do you think any one thing in particular links the kinds of releases that come from the label?

SM: It’s all music that John Dawson and I like. That's the only requirement.

JR: You guys just released Heavy Window on Magnetic South in an edition of 1000 copies. I know Trouble in Mind put out a couple pressings of Bubblegum Graveyard and you guys put out a cassette version, but is 1000 copies the largest single pressing that you guys have done?

SM: This is the biggest pressing that Magnetic South has done.  Apache Dropout's self-titled LP and Bubblegum Graveyard were pressed in similar amounts, I believe. For the "Magnetic Heads" LP, Family Vineyard pressed 500.

JR: How does the writing and recording of Heavy Window compare to the three full-lengths that came before it?

SM: You'd have to talk to Sonny about the song-writing process.  For the recording, we spent fair amount more time getting the "sounds.” This is also the first record we've released that was recorded in stereo. That's been in the plan since we were recording our first record. When we were first starting the band we made a lot of decisions concerning future aesthetics.

Sonny Blood: Heavy Window contains our most paranoid material to date, which is influenced by the house I was living in at the time.  Before we moved in, the house was central to the local activist/anarchist community and when we signed the lease some of our friends were like, "Don't live there, that place is bugged!"  Soon we started seeing unmarked vans cruising the block and FBI agents knocking on the door to ask, "Does so-and-so still live at this residence?"  It was hard to abide in my shady lifestyle, but my personal life at the time was even worse so I decided to let the paranoids in the door, embracing paranoia because it's actually easier to deal with than loss and trauma.  It was almost like living in a fantastic conspiracy theory, which is the theme of the record, if there is one.

JR: Do you think that songwriting gets easier as you write more songs? Or do you begin to run out of options?

SM: I haven't personally written a song since the last Lord Fyre recording session in 2008. Maybe I ran out of options. Honestly not really sure.

SB: I could project an algorithm to describe my songwriting habits, but I think that would miss the point. Inspiration is the most important thing, and how you find inspiration depends on your life and how you live it.  Sometimes the window is open, sometimes it's closed. The muse is wild and mysterious and I honestly recommend Goddess worship as the only sustainable means of staying in touch with your inspiration.  Light a candle, take the sacrament and open your mind as wide as it will go.  Writing songs has made it easier for me to open my mind, but I don't know if it's made it easier for me to write more songs.  The songs just happen.

JR: I know that Mikey Young of Total Control previously mastered Bubblegum Graveyard. Were there people in other projects involved in Heavy Window (I know John Dawson recorded it)?

SM: It was mastered by Paul Mahern. John Terrill AKA the Mad Monk plays additional percussion on the record. He was also involved in the design.

JR: I am personally a big fan of things that glow in the dark. It's a totally underrated aesthetic choice. I'm glad that you guys used it in the first 500 copies of your record. How did you decide on the album cover and the glow in the dark eyes?

SM: I saw an advertisement in a '50s drag racing magazine that said "weird eyes glow in the dark". I made a xerox of it and hung it on my bedroom wall for a couple of years.  Pretty sure the idea is growth of that ad and a bunch of other ideas.

JR: You guys are about to go on a pretty substantial tour around the country. Are there any bands that you are particularly excited to play with? Are there any places you always stop when touring?

SM: We always go on a big tour when we release an LP. Another decision made from the beginning. We're very excited to be playing with Kid Congo Powers, and Psychic Baos. We just played with Danny and the Darleans last week. That was a dream come true.

SB: I'm very excited to play with Kid Congo Powers in Brooklyn.  We are playing at Cropped Out Fest with Obnox, the Sun Ra Arkestra and the legendary Belgian Waffles!!

JR: What do you guys typically listen to or do in the car while touring?

SM: We mostly listen to Flaming Groovies and the "Songs Lux and Ivy Talked About" compilations.  I personally can't really read in a moving vehicle. So I spend a lot of time watching the beautiful country-side. Sonny read a lot of conspiracy texts and Nathan does a lot of studying of Indian ragas.

SB: We really like to listen to the Rolling Stones.  I read a lot when I'm traveling, and some of the books I've read on the road have inspired our songs -- stuff like Arthur Machen, HP Lovecraft, William Burroughs, Nick Tosches, anything sci-fi, and especially any book about the Rolling Stones.  We all read Keith Richard's Life together on tour, and AE Hotchner's Blown Away: The Rolling Stones and the Death of the Sixties.  I'm hoping the boys will read Marianne Faithfull's autobiography on this tour, because it's one of the best books on the Stones and also she is the greatest and I love her.

JR: Are you guys working on any other releases either as Apache Dropout or anything else?

SM: More Apache Dropout releases coming at some point I'm sure.  And a pile of new stuff coming out on Magnetic South Recordings. Working on archive releases from Nevermores and Zero Boys.  And new stuff from Psychic Baos, The Hemingers, and Thee Tsunamis.  Not to mention plans to open a Magnetic South store in Bloomington this fall. I've got my work cut out for me.

SB: We will be road-testing some new Dropout songs on this tour which we might be recording sometime soon.  I'm the guy in the band who's always working on 1,000 side projects.  I've been quietly self-releasing party-psych tape collages under the name the Exploding Head Scene and working on a new band the Submarine, which explores heavy deep-sea baroque psych.  I've been playing bass with a mysterious young ripper name Chives, out of Indianapolis. There are also some great recordings in the can by the Sitar Outreach Ministry (featuring all members of Apache Dropout) which should be coming out sometime on Family Vineyard.

JR: Anything else you'd like to say?

SM: Can't think of anything.

SB: Riot!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Interview with Josh Cheon of Dark Entries

I caught onto Dark Entries a little late. I discovered the label when my friend introduced me to the Patrick Cowley compilation that was recently reissued (er…issued?). It’s a startling collection of songs and sounds. Some of the inserts are perhaps not for the faint of heart – and there is that warning that comes with the seal on the front – but it’s an interesting time capsule of sorts. Musician turns gay porn soundtracker. Unfortunately, even when Patrick died in 1982 of AIDS, at a time when it wasn’t even called AIDS, he was not well known and probably never thought anyone would reissue his records, least of all his gay porn scores.

As an obsessive type with a massive addictive personality, I was fascinated by an individual who exhibited the same sort of prying, digging, pillaging behavior with which I seem to identify. Josh Cheon of Dark Entries is one such person. His label has released some things I never really expected to get reissued, specifically the first Kirlian Camera record, which he is about to reissue as an LP with an included flexi-disc. I think I discovered Kirlian Camera in the English translation of an old L'Ame Electrique magazine and never really expected to hear their first record as a possessed object.

Dark Entries has put out a fairly astounding amount of releases for its brief five years existence. It doesn't really look like it's slowing down any time soon. I'm not going to ruin any of the surprises that Josh includes in the interview, but I'm going to be honest and say that there are a lot of pretty incredible stuff on the horizon for his label. 

Give the label a "like" on Facebook and check out their Website while you're at it and buy yourself a little something, you filthy animal.

J: Everything going well today?

JC: Yeah, I’m actually scanning in Psychic TV artwork.

J: For what?

JC: For a reissue coming out on Halloween.

J: Can I ask what it is?

JC: Yes – it’s a 12” single.

J: All right. I’m getting excited.

JC: It has three remixes – one from the band and two from contemporary artists.

J: Awesome. Psychic TV is one of my favorite bands so that totally just made my day.

JC: Yeah this is one of their Acid House songs.

J: I actually really like those.

JC: This is an atypical one because Genesis doesn’t sing on it. There aren’t many songs without Genesis singing other than back in the day they didn’t have h/er singing. No maybe not even then. I love the early stuff so much but it’s impossible to track down Alex Fergusson who owns half the publishing rights. He’s an old school British punker of sorts and no one has been able to track him down for a long while. I think a lot of these reissues are sort of gray area, like the reissues of their first couple albums, the more hazel, psychedelic stuff.

J: I don’t remember the last time I scanned anything.

JC: I do it a lot.

J: I bet you do.

JC: I want everything to be just how it was.

J: Do you do everything at Dark Entries?

JC: Pretty much. I have a designer named Eloise Leigh who is in Germany right now. She’s American but lives in Berlin and she does all the design, layout, and art. I do production and track sequencing and stuff.

J: What made you start the label?

JC: I had wanted to do something to give back. I’m such a consumer of music and been buying records since I was fourteen in Manhattan. I’m from New Jersey, but I amassed all these records until I was twenty-seven and started the label so it had been about thirteen years. I had always thought that it would be cool to have a record store and continue the cycle. When I moved to San Francisco, I bought records off this guy named Phil who ran a blog. I can’t remember the exact moment, but he had said something about a band that had contacted him on his blog looking for a label to reissue their material. He basically told me that I should do it and I was like, “well, yeah, I should do it” (laughs). I had interned at record labels in college and even before. I had all these contacts for pressing records and artwork – just a huge cache of people who could help out and it just all came together that way.

J: So that band was Eleven Pond?

JC: Yeah.

J: Do you still have copies of your first records that you sell?

JC: Yeah, I try to keep everything in print that I put out. Not everything is in print right now, but I’m trying I should say (laughs).

J: When you do reissues do you have to get a license for them?

JC: Yeah. Always.

J: How does that work?

JC: I track down the songwriter and composer – sometimes it’s not the same person. Sometimes a label will say that they own rights to a song and I have to go through a label.

J: What’s the hardest you’ve had to work to get something reissued?

JC: There’s a bunch I’m still trying to get! (laughs) Some artists are very resistant to having their material reissued because of negative associations like drugs or trauma. I’ve had many people say “No that was the past and I’m in the present.” It took me a long time to track down a Japanese artist who used a pseudonym. Eventually I found the photographer who had taken pictures of models that the artist had used for the jacket. The photographer gave me his real name. From there I found a website and a café that he owned. Little by little I got in touch with him.

J: Has that release been reissued or is that something that you’re working on?

JC: That’s still in the works. Since I found him, another label contacted him. I don’t know if it was since I was posting things like “I found him.” Maybe they went on their own excavation. It was funny seeing that after I found him and he agreed to the reissue, while he was looking for the tapes for a few months, he was approached by a label and he’s got the opportunity to decide between the two.

J: That seems frustrating.

JC: It’s a little frustrating, but it’s not out of the ordinary. It isn’t necessarily common either.

J: Tell me a little bit about the upcoming Kirlian Camera reissue you have coming out.

JC: That’s another one! I’d been trying to get those guys to reissue stuff since 2009. Over five years I’ve been begging, pleading, e-mailing, and just hammering at Angelo and it has been a string of no’s. “No, we don’t own the rights. No, we don’t care about that.” Every few months I’d send him another e-mail and after this time, he somehow said Okay. Now it’s been incredibly smooth and he wants to do more. We have a bunch in the pipeline. They also just got their rights back. I think it was Italian records, which got licensed to something huge – Universal BMG.

J: I saw some of your newer roster at the Empty Bottle – how was that tour?

JC: Fantastic. It really turned out well. Everyone got along and I think that it was productive. Each night the bands felt better and better. By the time we got home, everyone was feeling good about it so that was really nice.

J: Do you think you’d do something like that again?

JC: Of course! Actually there’s another tour with me and Bezier. We’re going to Spain for Thanksgiving.

J: That’s a ways away.

JC: That’s a ways away but it should be cool.

J: I always associate some of the more synth-driven music with Europe though, so I guess maybe that makes sense.

JC: I think you’re right. I think we’ll have a different type of crowd. Spain has a big population into the 80s music. A lot of the stores you go into expecting to find cheap, amazing European stuff, but it’s all at collectors’ prices. They really have a strong handle on the going rate or demand of the music. I think there are a lot of music dorks there.

J: Do you think people travel to certain record stores in Europe just for stuff like that?

JC: I don’t know. I think people in Europe either look for those giant flea markets in the parks or smaller stores or personal collections in houses. But now there are also those tools where you can look up records and see what they’re worth like ebay or discogs, which drives up prices quickly.

J: Yeah, I’ve done that.

JC: Yeah, I’ve definitely done that too. When I moved here I was reselling stuff so it definitely happens.

J: I think it’s a good thing, though. Just recently, I read The Acid Archives and I was looking through a bunch of old private pressings – stuff that was never at your fingertips – and checking on discogs and being able to see “oh, this just got reissued a year ago” or “Oh, well, there’s a bootleg, but people say it sounds good.” Stuff like that makes it a useful resource.

JC: Totally true.

J: Tell me a little bit about the Patrick Cowley record you put out.

JC: I’m part of a DJ collective and in 2007 we went to the former owner of Megatone Records, which was Patrick Cowley’s record label, John Hedges' house and he was giving away his records. We were the last people to go over and we saw two crates of reel-to-reels there. One of our guys asked if we could take them and he said “yeah, otherwise, I’m going to throw them away.” So we basically saved these from the dumpster. Since I had the record label starting up and was using a tape-transfer facility, I took a bunchy of tapes over and was really blown away by how eclectic the stuff that Patrick had been making. Some of it was out there and spacey and some had the didgeridoo.

JC: Two years later in 2009, one of the tapes was reissued by a German label. It was a project called Catholic that Patrick had done with Jorge Socarras. We had a release party in San Francisco. Leading up to that, I had been in charge of interviewing Patrick’s friends and family. We had the interviews playing on little mp3 players that people could put on and listen to. During the release, two guys approached me and asked if I had found the scores that Patrick had done for porn flicks and I was surprised. “What?” “Oh, yeah, Patrick did scores for gay porn.” I had heard something about that. One of the interviews may have talked about it, but once these guys told me about them I was really on the hunt for these soundtracks.

JC: Then I found them and it was right there, clear as day. “Music by Patrick Cowley.” He didn’t even use a pseudonym. So I had to track down the director, which took a few years actually. That was another difficult one. He’s still alive. He’s living in Los Angeles and is seventy years old. Total survivor. Then it took me another year to go down there because he refused to take the tapes and mail them to San Francisco. I went down to Los Angeles and brought them all back. Then I realized that we had some of the tracks before but there were so many new ones that eventually made it onto the reissue or compilation I guess.

JC: There’s more too. School Daze was only one of the films, but there’s another one called Muscle Up and another called Afternooners and we’ll be reissuing stuff from those next year.

J: Do you have a typical amount of releases each year?

JC: No. You can see that it increases each year. This year there’s a pretty huge amount. In 2009, I think I put out three records. I started in July and I think I put out one in July and two in December. In 2010, I think I put out twelve or something like that. I think last year it was around thirty and this year it’s more than that. I don’t really want to do more than I have this year.

J: That’s a lot of releases for any label to put out.

JC: I know, but I have so much stuff from my childhood that I want to put out. I’m at the point now where I can contact these bigger names like Psychic TV or Severed Heads and ask them if they want to be part of my label. There are also smaller guys that I’ve just discovered in the last four or five years that are more cassette-based European artists that sometimes haven’t made it out of their country or town and I end up getting a cache of that. Plus there are new bands that e-mail me, or I catch live!

J: How do you find the small artists that’ll have like fifty cassettes in Europe?

JC: I use YouTube a lot. Sometimes someone will e-mail me something random their father’s band or something at a smaller level and upload a video. The video will be a rip of a cassette or a song. That’s how I found The Product. I think they put out fifty copies of their cassette, which never made it out of Denmark at the time. I used to go on YouTube binges where I just got lost in a black hole and found a lot of cool bands.

J: Do you make music yourself?

JC: I do not.

J: You ever want to?

JC: I think about it sometimes, but it’s not on the top of my head. I am more focused on putting out other peoples’ music. First off, I don’t really know how to play any instruments, but many people tell me that that isn’t as important.

J: What all is in the immediate future for you guys?

JC: Well, we have the Opera Multi Steel, a French band from 1984. We have a New York no wave 12” from impLOG, who most recently were featured on the New York No Wave vol. 3 that Yard compiled. They’re a legendary No Wave band that used to play with a power drill on stage. I’m going to reissue the record that has the power drill – it’s kind of proto-industrial from 1980. Then the Kirlian Camera record will come out with a flexi disc too. BART vol. 2 will come out, which is Bay Area Retrograde, a comp of new wave and postpunk from the late 70s and early 80s from the bay area. That will have bands like Chrome, Tuxedomoon and a bunch of others. Then we have a compilation of solo material from Tom Ellard of Severed Heads – it’ll be the solo stuff he did from 1982. Many of them have never been released and most have not ever been on vinyl. Then I’ll do two Italo-disco 12”s. Then the Patrick Cowley & Jorge Socarras record will come out on vinyl. I’m going to do a double LP with two bonus tracks not on the CD. And then the Psychic TV record will come out…as well as the first album by this Italian band called Die Form. Then there’s a crapload more that I’m not going to talk about, but that will get you through Halloween!