Friday, August 28, 2015

Pastor interview

Out of the remains of long forgotten heavy psych monstrosity arise Pastor, which is a new band influenced by good ol' dirty rock'n'roll. We spend some time to discuss about their new album out on Who Can You Trust? Records. Enjoy them!

When and how did the members of Pastor meet?

Arik: I actually started the whole thing with this crazy guy called ''Shardik''. I can't really remember when and where I met him though. I think we met in a bar and I started babbering like ''Hey man I want to start a rock band thing... like heavy rock.. kinda 70's style ya know?'' he was totally in for the kill! 
So we started a band kinda thing with some friends back then but it didn't worked out and we left to join our own thing ''PASTOR'', think we jammed together for almost a year till we found our drummer Alex. 

Alex: I met Arik at a Danava/Saviours Show back in 2012 in Austria. I got there with my friends and he was already hanging out outside. I went to the bar for a beer and he was standing right next to me. They were playing Sir Lord Baltimore at the venue and we both sang along to the lyrics. We started talking and he told me he was forming a band. It was obvious I had to join. I originally wanted to play guitar but there were already two guitarist (him and Shardik) so I thought I am just gonna start banging the drums. It was love at first sight. We met our bass player Georg over the internet. One time I showed up at the rehearsal and there was this mean looking guy playing bass like hell. The love story continued...

Where are you originally from?

Arik: I was born in Israel but grew up in Styria/Austria. Freakin countryside man boring and nothing to do. I was a weird child. The whole rock n roll thing started when I moved to the city Vienna. From there on my life went downhill haha. 
Shardik is from Lower Austria and Georg is from Linz/Upper Austria  but they all ended up in Vienna sooner or later.

Alex: I am from Burgenland/Austria. I moved to Vienna because of university and trying to get a life together. Instead of that, I joined Pastor.

What’s the lineup in Pastor right now?  Is this your original lineup or have you all gone through any lineup changes since the band started?

Alex: Actually there were no line up changes. Arik and Shardik started playing with two other guys and I think they called themselves "Moon" back then. We played two songs from that line up but changed some riffs and later on stopped playing these songs altogether. We met our bass player through the internet and ever since that it was a consisting line up.

Arik: If someone leaves, this band is through!

What was the local music scene like where you grew up?

Alex: To me it was awesome! When I lived on the countryside we had a lot of Punk, Hardcore and Screamo bands around town. These were some of my first concert experiences when I was about 14 years old and ever since then I totally fell in love with Punk. There was this local punk band called Determination and they were touring and shit and they were totally fast and wild. I was super into that and wanted to do that myself.

Arik: There ain't been shit at least so far I remember. Like I said I was a weird child and the whole music thing came later.

Are any of you in any other bands or do you have any side projects going on at this point?

Alex: I am singing in Avalanche. It is a Vienna based Sludge/Hardcore call it whatever you want band. We recorded some 7", tapes and a 12“ and got on the road quite often. At the time it is pretty mellow but I think we’ll get our act together and play more in the future. Georg is playing guitar in a band called Mothers Of The Land from Vienna. You should definitely check them out!

Arik: Ain't got time for that in the moment bro.

What does the name Pastor mean or refer to?

Alex: I think we were just going for the most shittiest name ever...  Actually I don’t really know but I can only say it has definitely nothing to do with any religion stuff.

Arik: I think Shardik and me came up with the name when we where drinkin' and spinning records at his place we just thought it sounds heavy but actually I don't know either haha.  

What’s the songwriting process like for Pastor?

Alex: Usually Arik and Shardik come up with some riffs. I try to lay some beats over it and then we work out the details. It is really super chilled and a Pastor song usually comes pretty natural. We also jam a lot and that’s pretty cool as well. 

Arik: Yeah its like Alex said. We get into our rehearsal cave and start jammin. He just forgot to mention all the beers !!

Alex: Oh yeah!

What about recording? You have brand new album out and in 2014 your released a single (''Wayfaring Stranger / The Oath''). Both of the releases are on Who Can You Trust Records?. Would you like to tell us what was the recording process like and maybe some words about songs, that appear on your new album?

Alex: Recording Evoke was crazy. We just had 3 days for the instrumental part and I think 2 days for vocals. We didn’t rush through the songs but it was sometimes pretty hectic because we had to get 3 songs each day done. Our budget wasn’t big enough to spend an entire week in the studio so we did it like that and I think we all liked it. The 7" was recorded in Linz/Austria at KAPU which is a club that has a studio in the upper floor. That was chill. We stayed there three days and recorded three songs. We also slept at KAPU and partied in Linz every night. Some rad stories happened there.

Arik: Recording Evoke was more or less professional compared to the recording session for the 7', haha that was crazy. And all of our shit was recorded live of course. That's the only way we can do it.

What influenced you to make this album?

Alex: To me it was the previous 7". I really wanted to do an album because I haven’t done a long player with any of my bands yet. It was on my to do list for such a long time. I think our main influence was just to get these songs out there. 

Arik: It was just the next step ya know. 

What about the cover artwork?

Arik: Yeah, that was done by Adam Burke who also did the cover for our 7". I think we didn't really knew what we wanted to have on the cover so I just told Adam to do something far out creepy with trees and stuff and I have to say Adam never disappoints. He came up with something thats totally rad that fits the music.

Are there any major plans or goals that Pastor is looking to accomplish in 2015/2016?

Alex: We are doing a three week long tour with our buddy's in Black Wizard from Canada through Europe. We are really looking forward to this tour and had to manage a lot of personal stuff for doing this but I think it will be strictly amazing! 

Do you all spend a lot of time out on the road touring?

Alex: Recently we played a lot of shows in Germany and we just got there for one show. Our last show was in Aschaffenburg/Germany which was planned a 7h drive from Vienna but turned into a 11h nightmare of traffic jams and waiting at the German autobahn. We don’t have a van so we have to go to these shows in my small Toyota in order to keep the expenses low. We always ask ourselves if we have some mental problems while driving but I think that’s just the way it is when you’re playing in a band. No matter how crazy you go inside the car as soon as you can play a show it was all worth it, I guess! And it is always rad to see weird shit in other countries.

Arik: Haha I think there is nothing more to add. We are kinda broke all the time so there is no money for a van or comfort but that's just rock n roll. 

Are there any new bands, that you would like to recommend?

Alex: Depends on what you call new but I am still listening a lot to the new Lecherous Gaze album Zeta Reticuli Blues. That band is just killer! We just played with Death Alley and these guys are just super nice and their new album Black Magick Boogieland is something I can highly recommend! Also we are all super into a band called Joy from San Diego. Seriously there are too many good bands out there these days to mention. 

Arik: DZJENGHIS KHAN! All said. But seriously I dig loads of stuff from the late 60s and 70s era.
And just to mention a few bands that I dig: Hot Lunch, Banquet, Wild Eyes, Harsh Toke, Earthless, Ovvl, and so on... 

What's your opinion about vinyl comeback? How do you listen to music? 

Alex: It is great! I mean I am 25 so I didn’t really grew up listening to records back then but I can still remember the first time I bought a 7". It was magic! I also listen to a lot of CDs in my car but whenever I am at home I go through the vinyl. I think a lot of people are making a big deal out of vinyl and their collection and as long as they are not acting like pretentious a-holes I think that’s really cool! Vinyl has so many positive aspects but I think it doesn’t really matter on what format you are listening to a band as long as you support them. 

Arik: I dig vinyl & tapes a lot and for me it's something special. And of course I use the internet to check out new bands, who doesn't? I don't have a CD player and I  honestly don't give a thing about comebacks or trends. Each to their own! As long as you support the bands you dig.

Alex: Go buy mini discs man!

Well, thanks guys for taking your time. Would you like to send a message to It's Psychedelic Baby readers?

Alex: Thanks for spreading the word about underground and independent bands. We are highly thankful for that! Go check out smaller bands in smaller clubs, it all started there!

Arik: Big thanks to Clem! Thanks to Psychedelic baby! Stay rad! Support rock n roll underground! Be yourself!

Interview made by Klemen Breznikar/2015
© Copyright

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

IPBM Podcast 3 - Jus Oborn (Electric Wizard)

You have last tab of acid left in your antique dresser box and you're home alone and want to experience psychedelic nightmare? Well who else to ask than Jus Oborn of Electric Wizard. He prepared a really heavy psychedelic mix exclusively for It's Psychedelic Baby Magazine. Enjoy.

Acid Nightmare Playlist

"When Klemen asked me to do a playlist I knew immediatly I wanted to do a hard psychedelic mix. I am usually asked about my favourite doom or horror films....but in my teenage years I was very into LSD. Between '84-'88 my main obsessions were death metal, LSD, Hawkwind and the Occult....haha.....together they created Electric Wizard. Actually the whole early death/black metal scene was very hedonistic and we were all satanic drug fiends..."its a satanic drug wouldn't understand"....and , of course, a lot of dark psych and prog filtered through the scene..(I actually got an Incredible String band cassette from Euronymous...and a lot of early Black metal is very 'Hawkwind'..). These bands were weird and fuzzy and creepy ...all we ever wanted in those old days was to recreate that feeling. That otherworldly experience...bad acid trips and paranoias...all seemed a way to create a darker and more psychological form of music. is a playlist of our favourite psychedelia. I tried not to make it eclectic or obscure on purpose...though there is a mix of classics and some little heard gems. The main purpose was to recreate the vibe and era when Electric Wizard was still jamming in a Dorset cottage high on LSD, mushrooms, weed, speed, pills..etc etc. An Acid Nightmare.....starting out mellow, then creeping tendrils of paranoia as you start to realise things are not as they seem....sounds become colours, colours turn into screams.... the noise intensifies and compels. Your life is a stream, a dark trickle under the sun. A black ocean awaits..."
- Jus Oborn (Electric Wizard)

© It's Psychedelic Baby Magazine

Electric Wizard overture (Funeral Of Your Mind) 
Tiffany Shade - An Older Man
Amboy Dukes - Flight Of The Byrd
Mother Sunday - Midnight Graveyard
Orphan Egg - Falling
Jimi Hendrix Experience - The Stars That Play With Laughing Sam's Dice
Alice Cooper - Fields Of Regret
Fleetwood Mac - Green Manalishi
Stooges - Ann
Moody Blues - Thinking Is The Best Way To Travel
My Bloody Valentine - Feed Me With Your Kiss
Loop - Mother Sky (Can cover)
Van Der Graaf Generator - Whatever Would Robert Have Said?
Saint Vitus - Clear Windowpane
Suck - The Whip
Bob Seger System - Deathrow
Hawkwind - Paranoia Pt.2
Monster Magnet - Ozium

Special thanks for mixing goes to Carlos Ferreira.

 Also check a really cool video made by Electric Wizard fan. Like Jus said this is a really bad acid trip...

Sunday, August 16, 2015

It's Psychedelic Baby presents: Wax Machine "Big Boat" premiere

Wax Machine is a new band, that is exploring ground of psychedelia inside a wonderful mixture of sophisticated pop music.

Wax Machine are a 6 month old Brighton 6-piece spawned from the collaboration between Lauro Zanin (guitar/backing vocals) and Freddie Willatt (vocals/saxophone) fueled by late 60s/early 70s psychedelia records such as Velvet Underground, Pet Sounds, Free Your Mind... And Your Ass Will Follow, Their Satanic Majesties Request and Highway 61 Revisited.

Joined by Oscar Burns (guitar), Ellis Dickson (drums), Kat Savage (Glockenspiel/Tambourine) and Joe Thorpe (bass); Wax Machine are set to surf the cosmic vibrations in your mind.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Volcanic Tongue interview with David Keenan

Peter Brotzmann and David Keenan.

With the end of Volcanic Tongue, the closure of the greatest European record store for the past ten years is now a fact. So here’s a final talk with its shopkeeper who never saw himself as a shopkeeper: David Keenan. 

At the end of last year, you wrote a piece for the Wire about 'the end of underground music'. In the beginning of this year, you announced the closing of Volcanic Tongue. Are these two events linked to each other?

My reasons for closing down Volcanic Tongue after 10 years are entirely personal and unrelated to the state of anything else except perhaps the economy. Since the economic downturn it has been very difficult to keep things afloat, I think all small businesses have felt the same, but VT was a labour of love and something we felt was vital for the time, not just to provide a platform for the best new underground music but also to function as a weekly newsletter that provided information, context and enthused prose on the best releases that were coming out. I know that we had many more readers than we had customers. 

I was never a businessman, never wanted to be a shopkeeper, so it was never going to last forever, too many other things I wanted to do but the writing kept me interested, that was the focus of the site and why we never used sound samples, but after 10 years, and with it becoming increasingly hard in terms of cashflow I decided the time was right. I have been writing novels – fiction – for the past five years and now that they are about to start coming out I wanted to make the move to get back to writing full time and focus on my books. For the past ten years I have been working on VT stuff every day and then writing for The Wire and producing novels by night. It is simply too much to sustain and I am enjoying now having the opportunity to write in a less frenetic and more relaxed style. I mean, the VT writing came from that, it was fast, get your thoughts down, instant prose, evangelical, experimental, capturing the first thrill of hearing the music. My Wire writing was always different from that - in depth, critical, worked over - and quite segregated from it. I never considered VT or the state of things or politics or personal profit or whether it will win or lose me friends when I had an opinion or I wrote something for The Wire. I write what I believe in and what I think has to be said. Without forethought, really, which has cost me quite a few friendships over the years but I accept that’s the price you pay for a degree of critical rigour and honesty. 
I can’t think of a single person who, like me, has been a central player in the actual underground for the past few decades who doesn’t believe that the underground is dead. But it doesn’t mean that there are no solitary operatives still doing their thing; that’s where the hope and interest lies. Either way I can’t for the life of me understand why anyone who was seriously involved with their art, who was a real artist, a serious artist, would even care whether the underground was dead or not. Why would you ever think your own art was part of some genre and fight to be included in it? Surely you must believe that your own art stands alone? And that you’ll be making it whether an ‘underground’ exists or not? That’s the mindset that interests me; compulsive creation. 

What has happened with underground music is the same as what happened with independent music. Once it actually meant something, was a descriptive term, then it became ‘indie’, a genre, a ghetto, a dead end. The same thing has happened to underground music, it was inevitable. It has become undie... no need to mourn, let’s just move on, see what happens next. There will always be weirdos making the kind of art that refuses to conform to anything but the awkward contours of their own personality. My faith has always been with the one-offs. 

Ultimately, though, the reason I closed VT was personal. My father died and my friend Shaun Falconer died within the space of a year. They were both central to VT. Shaun worked for us and my father built our shop by hand. The place was just too haunted without them. It was time to move on to the next adventure. The underground just happened to fall apart at the same time. 

In an interview for the Dutch TV show 'Zomergasten', Cees Noteboom said: "There is no such thing as 'professional journalism'. You know a lot about something because you like it and you write about it because you want to share your enthusiasm... and if there would be something like 'a professional interest', I'm not interested in reading it".
For the last couple of years, my Sunday evening ritual was: reading the new VT update before going to sleep, because it always gave me a boost of positive energy. I liked your reviews because you were never cynical or trying to be clever, like many other British writers. So my question is: why and when did you decided that your VT reviews were going to be all positive, that you wanted to put your time and energy into praising the music and artists you like, instead of criticizing music and artists you don't like?

First thing, I don’t really think of myself as a critic, per se. That’s just a convenient way of describing what I do in a way that’s straightforward and understandable. Critique, however, is of little interest to me, ultimately. I prefer to simply ignore what I don’t like or doesn’t interest me and surround myself with my passions. I prefer building up to knocking down. I cut myself off from mainstream media a long time ago. I haven’t owned a television in 12 years. When I do encounter it, say, when on holiday or at a friend’s house, I’m appalled at the level of garbage that passes for culture and entertainment in the mainstream. I have no interest in pop music or in writing or commentating on it. I hue to the Bill Hicks line: you’re getting all confused, it’s a piece of shit, now walk away. I think it’s hilarious and a little tragic when supposedly ‘intelligent’ critics start taking crap like Drake or ASAP Rocky or Kanye West seriously. But then most critics are career critics, professional journalists, as Noteboom points out, so their whole reason for existence is to be someone who functions as a kind of barometer for the state of culture at large. They will write about anything because really their critiques are based around cultural or sociological or political themes and of course the more mainstream the music or art then the easier it is to hang grand statements on them that reflect on extra-musical concerns. This is also handy for writers who have no vocabulary or lack the imagination to talk about the actual music, the sonics, the quality of the sound. Which is why so much music journalism hangs on analysis of the lyrics. These guys are just out of college and they bring the same tool to writing about music as they did to analyzing fucking Rudyard Kipling in their English Lit class. 

I have no interest in cultural critique on that level. I write for the believers, the obsessives and the fanatics, the people who are looking for a new kind of kick, something real, committed, something still in love with the original revolutionary potential of rock music and free music and radical highly personal art, the kind of music and art and literature that can change your life forever. I don’t believe that stuff really has a chance in the mainstream anymore because of the absolute stranglehold that corporations have over the entertainment industry, more than ever, though the rot set in in the 1980s. The message now is all about reinforcing spirit-crushing mainstream consumer values, even when it is framed as ‘edgy’. But I don’t care. I fight for a space for the music and art that I love, that’s what VT was about and that’s what my ‘critical’ writing is about, I’m an evangelist, an enthusiast. 

With VT we made the decision only to stock things we like. End of story. Of course that caused a lot of animosity, especially with awful local musicians who really believed what they were doing was ‘underground’ or ‘experimental’ or ‘noise’ and that we therefore had a duty to boost it. My only duty is/was to boosting great one-off non-conformist art and music. So, of course, if we didn’t stock your cassettes or CD-Rs, it meant we didn’t like it, obviously, so people got annoyed, inevitably. Go build your own underground. 

I simply could not bring myself to sell or pretend to like something that I thought actually sucked. I couldn’t live with myself. That’s why I couldn’t run a ‘standard’ record shop or on-line retail thing where they just stock all the indie and underground and electronica or whatever releases that come out of all the usual distributors that week and glibly rave about them all. So, primarily, VT was a place where we could put forward our passions, create our own canon, and bring to attention new things that were exciting us. I’m glad you got such a good, powerful, positive feeling from reading the VT updates. It was a total celebration of weirdo culture. I worked hard to mint a spontaneous language and a way of writing about the music that was completely in tune with the experience of listening to it, that didn’t betray it by hoisting a whole buncha non-musical smarts on top of it. I wrote without any agenda except to attempt to match the experience of the music. I wanted my words to be as exciting and fun and radical and new and affirmative to read as the music was to listen to. I have had no training in writing or journalism, no schooling, all feel. I taught myself, through listening to music, through reading and through obsessive writing. Lester Bangs blew my mind when I was 17 and I have been writing almost every day since. I stay away from cultural theory, from Marxist critique, any of that stuff. I abhor any school or fixed approach that is not drawn from my own veins. I know writers who actually describe themselves as ‘Marxist critics’! My god, you are nothing but a cipher for someone else’s ideas. What happened to your balls and your heart and your brain, you moments of secret epiphany, your revelations that were beyond any formal explicatory model? You really have abdicated any responsibility for self-creation. I am of no school. My mantra: is. 

Of course my Wire work is different. I don’t pitch to write about things I don’t like. Why would I? I only pitch things I am falling in love with or excited about and wanna communicate that. Of course I am often commissioned to write about things that I end up not liking and in that case I have to be 100% honest but I approach everything without prejudice and with a completely open mind. I’m always up for being surprised and turned around. I have no problem tearing something to shreds if it comes up in front of me, in life and in writing, but it’s not something I go looking for. Still, watch your back. 

I have no idea how I have managed to make a lifetime career out of what is really just a passionate stance, I really don’t, it’s so unlikely. I have spent very short periods in my life attempting to write for mainstream newspapers, for NME and Melody Maker at IPC etc, where really there was no freedom to follow your own passions and no potential to write about anything that people weren’t already familiar with. I bailed every time, I was so unhappy. Professional journalism is hell on earth and a form of moral and creative servitude that I simply cannot put up with. I’m amazed and thankful to be where I am. Hopefully my novels have a similar enthused, affirmative quality to them. I’m not cynical. I’m always saying yes. 

You say you write for the believers, the obsessives and the fanatics. You could also say you write about the believers, the obsessives and the fanatics. Do you feel like, in the end, you don't write about music and that you actually write about people?

Well, I feel that in my Wire reviews and on VT I write about music, that’s a big thing for me, to capture the sonic aspect of it, to deal with how it sounds and reflect that in my prose. But, yes, I am fascinated with people, artists, for whom there is no separation between their art and their life. I think that’s the ultimate achievement and what fascinates me the most, one-offs, total artists, people like Derek Bailey and Peter Brotzmann, certainly, or like Steven Stapleton of Nurse With Wound, Sterling Smith also and writers, all the writers that I love like Malcolm Lowry and Blaise Cendrars and Pierre Reverdy and Charles Olson and Denton Welch and Kenneth Rexroth and Frater Achad and Alan Watts and Patrick Leigh Fermor and Sylvia Plath and Antonin Artaud and Henry Miller and Robert Aickman and Herman Melville and August Strindberg and Lester Bangs. And I’m very interested in how they lived their lives. 
My features, I would say, my big cover stories, certainly, have much more to do with bringing out what the person is like, of catching them in their own environment, getting a feel for the contours of their personality. That’s what interests me. I never have set questions and I very rarely do much preparation. I spend time with them and I have conversations. It’s always very informal. What interests me most in an interview, although again, I never think of myself as an ‘interviewer’ per se, is how the personality of the artist comes across beyond any straightforward presentation of historical or biographical information; the way they talk; strange things they say;’ their sense of humour; their madness; their combativeness; the way they use language. Above all, that’s what I try to capture and to get across, in overt and in more subtle ways, such as rhythm, pace, structure etc. I like it all to cohere, all to contribute to the overall impression with nothing superfluous, even if it might appear wildly tangential. Content dictates form. I’m comfortable with many different kinds of people, I can talk your ass off plus I have opinions coming out my wazoo, so all that helps. 

Visiting Steven Stapleton’s self-built goat farm/home/visionary environment in County Clare was a mind-blower for me, as was staying with Brotzmann at his home in Wuppertal for a while. I feel inspired by people who have created their own universe, who have managed to find a different way of existing than we are told is possible, who have somehow stepped off the edge of the map into the unknown territory of the heart itself, the core of their own being, and how it manifests itself in the world and their environment and their day to day life. That’s what was so fascinating about writing England’s Hidden Reverse, meeting so many eccentric people and also exhuming a history of people moving in the direction of their own passions and interests and secret obsessions, that’s the whole ‘reverse current’ that I talk about, people who refuse to go with the flow, to be caught up in society’s expectations, who dare to believe it is possible to exist outside of a nine to five job, who can turn their obsessions into their life. It is so important and these examples are more necessary than ever now that the whole world is threatening to become a monoculture run by banks and businessmen. I still think art and the example it can set and the inspiration it can provide is vital, it’s a source of strength. But often it looks to other people like you are going backwards, in reverse, if you fully embrace it and its possibilities and – ultimately – its sacrifices. I live my life the way I want to which has meant many sacrifices, all of which I am happy to make in order to live the life I want to live every day and not defer fulfilment to some fantasy future. I’ve pared my life down to my central passions. As I said, I don’t have a TV, don’t have a car, have very few day to day expenses, I try to grow a lot of our own food. And I get to write every day. You can step off the conveyor belt and follow your heart any time you want to. It’s only a lack of imagination that prevents you. And if you lack that, look to art for examples. But most people are too scared. What’s the worst thing that could happen if you started to follow your own inner dictates? You might die? Well, that is going to happen, so, with that out of the way, get on with it. 

It’s the brave ones that fascinate me, the extraordinary people, and you find them everywhere. I don’t dress or particularly look like someone who is into ‘underground music’. It’s important for me to be able to move between different cultures and mix with different types of people. If I had, say, a blue mohawk and a pierced nose and one of those big things in my ear lobe or long hair, tattoos and combat fatigues that would be a little more difficult, in that I would be trumpeting my membership of a certain sub-culture. I mean, I respect people with mohawks, if they still have them when they’re 50 – to quote Keiji Haino. And I always really respected the saxophonist Terry Edwards who got a tattoo that read ‘Individual’ right down his neck so that he could never compromise and end up working in a bank. Amazing! But that’s not for me. I prefer a degree of invisibility – which is one of the key magic powers for a reason – so that I can flit between different groups of people with ease. There are weirdos everywhere, I meet a lot through gardening and living in the hut that I have on the outskirts of Glasgow where I grow my own food and have a wood burning stove. There are many amazing people hidden away there, eccentrics, survivalists, hippies, sociopaths, gangsters, many with singular stories and amazing lives. None of them have any idea what my background is or what I do outside of when they see me. I love that, I cherish a degree of invisibility and anonymity. I’m lucky in that I live in Glasgow and there is no shortage of madness or weirdness or amazing characters and of course there is a love of language here which is a total inspiration for a writer and is a big part of what made me fall in love with language myself. My dad was an uneducated Irishman who had the most wonderful command of language that was completely untutored – he never went to school – and so was truly his own. I grew up in the east end of Glasgow, then as a young adult I lived in Airdrie, in Lanarkshire, and eventually moved back to the west end of Glasgow. These were key formative moments for me, all of them, and much of the inspiration for my novels has come from there. Indeed, my fiction writing is even more focussed on celebrating unique one-off characters, weirdos and eccentrics. The universe gets bigger and stranger and more magical the more you expose yourself to these types and my books, really, are memorials and thanks yous and uncoverings of precisely these sorts of people. I have a novel called Adieu To All Judges And Juries which is a fictional oral history of an underground music scene that never existed in Airdrie and environs in the 1980s. It’s all about what you are talking about. I live to memorialise people, times and places, even if they are phantoms or figments or ghosts. And I love to tell stories. 

If you move from non-fiction to fiction, don't you miss the dialogue? 

No, not at all, I have spent my whole life talking with artists and musicians; I have a lot stored up! 

Sometimes when I'm alone at night, I like to read out loud, fiction and non-fiction. Most of the time, I stop after a while because it doesn't seem to make much sense, but when I read your writing out loud, it always becomes so clear to me how your writing got a beat, a flow, how musical your writing actually is. I saw you playing live once, several years ago, with Tight Meat Duo in Brussels, with The Skaters. And after that concert I thought: Keenan his best writing swings more than his music. But to come to my question: should writing be music? 

Absolutely. I can’t stand an unmusical sentence, a paragraph that doesn’t flow or swing or have some kind of organic movement to it. I have a pet personal theory, maybe more a hunch or an indulgence, a working fiction, who knows, that it is possible to bring writing alive, to make of it some kind of life form or organism, should you capture the correct rhythms, the correct interlocking movements, the mutual strains and forces that would animate it. It’s an idea akin to the Jewish folkloric concept of the golem (I’m very interested in esoteric Judaism and Kabbalah) or the idea of Adam Kadmon as primordial man; a perfectly balanced tree. 
If you bring it to life like that, if you breathe into it – and this might be extrapolated from Olson, from my studies of him - the writing can go out and have its own life in the world and interact with other intelligences. My writing is focussed on facilitating the potential for, the possibility of, spontaneous life; towards movement and rhythm and intuitive form and my novels function biologically as well, I think so, at least that’s how they are keyed. This is an underlying theme of much of my recent writing, with chapters and paragraphs functioning as individual organs. Language is biological. 

I always read my writing aloud to myself once I am getting near the end of a draft or after a morning or afternoon of writing. If it doesn’t have that rhythm, then it goes or is altered, somehow. Of course, as Peter Brotzmann says, there are many ways to swing and the rhythm must be in keeping with the subject matter, the oddity of it, the specifics, so you gotta get deep and feel the embedded notion of time in the piece and then you gotta explicate that. Music and dance is great delight in time. Writing has a reputation for being more static, somehow, more fixed, but I would like to blur the lines between the two. Writing is – and as – physical process.

You often write about outsiders. Why is that, you think? Can I be a bit amateur psychological here and say: because, ultimately, you're the outsider yourself? 

Well, yes, of course. My earliest obsessions were things like science fiction (which I still love) and comics and horror and the supernatural and the unexplained and Forteana and astronomy. Real geek domains, classic outsider spheres. But it was always particularly the DIY self-actualising parts of these cultures that appealed to me the most, like when our local astronomy society, Astra, would print its own newsletters; I fell completely in love with these amateurish photocopied journals with stencilled graphics. Beautiful. That’s what led me to underground music, as I was starting to buy weird sci-fi and comics fanzines and then I discovered there was a similar DIY samizdat culture associated with music. I mean I read NME etc in the 1980s and of course I eventually went on to write for both NME and Melody Maker, both of which by that time, unfortunately, had become completely miserable places to be. But my heart was always with the fanzines and early on I got in touch with Lindsay Hutton who wrote one of the great garage/psych/rock zines to come out of Scotland – The Next Big Thing – and he sent me compilation tapes of garage punk etc and really indulged me and turned me on. I loved Lindsay’s aesthetic, his graphic style, the way he would handwrite the entire issue, the way the print smelled. I would send for zines that he mentioned or reviewed and soon I was getting lots of US and Euro zines, not just on music but like on horror movies and psychotronic flicks etc. I would go to London on holiday with my mum and I would wander around Portobello Road, picking up zines at Rough Trade, buying marijuana for the first time in the old underground toilets in Talbot Road, getting copies of things like Vague in weird head shops run by Rastafarians. It was a true education, a teenage dérive. And of course I published my own fanzine in the 80s, that was my first published music writing, and I wrote for a bunch of other ones too, there were quite a few fanzines coming out of Airdrie at the time, most of which I wrote for, which seems unbelievable now.
I mean, as a kid I was into heavy metal, that’s what all the sci-fi kids and astronomy buffs listened to, everything from Iron Maiden and Scorpions through Deep Purple, Demon, Rush etc. And of course the reason I was drawn to metal was at the time it was the heaviest, noisiest music you would encounter as a young kid in Glasgow or Airdrie but of course I then began hearing people using guitars in even more ferocious ways, that was my kick, and I got into The Ramones and Live Skull and things like that and from there into psychedelia and from there into free jazz and improvisation etc. I started playing some of my early discoveries to sci-fi pals and astronomy heads, thinking they would dig it, but they were just like, uh, this is weird. I didn’t get it. I thought we were looking for weird? I thought that was the point? It was doubly strange because I mean these guys all looked like the goddamn Ramones, albeit unwittingly, with tight Adidas t-shirts and bowl haircuts and leather jackets that were too small for them. 

I have been around many subcultures in my time, been a part of many weird groups and fringe enthusiasms but I have never stayed with any of them. I ‘m not a joiner and I’m no team player. I prefer my own company. I love to write because it is an essentially solitary and non-collaborative pursuit. I find common cause with aspects of so much fringe and outsider culture but never enough to wholeheartedly give myself to any one or exclusively identify myself even as an outsider. I have eccentric tastes but I’m not looking to be a part of anything, inside or out. My passion is for the one-offs, the examples of what’s possible, and my interests and values are completely non-mainstream. Somehow I have managed to create my own universe or at least the kind of world I like to inhabit. I’m into self-taught, untutored, raw, personal, compulsive, obsessive art that waits for no-one’s permission or understanding. That’s where I write from. And I’m an enthusiastic writer. That might be the closest I come to any kind of consistent identity. 

I'm married to an Austrian woman, which made me look at my own culture with a different view, through her eyes. You are married with a woman from US. Do you look at your own culture differently because of this? 

Yes, Heather Leigh has further enflamed my love of Glasgow and Scotland and small town Lanarkshire. She is a true Glaswegian and has been for many years now but it was great to see it all again from the outside with her and come to appreciate even more the wild energy and passion for language. We have walked all over Glasgow. We will often take trains out into the east end and walk all the way back home via various spontaneous detours or we will spend a day in a small town in Lanarkshire, walking around, taking photographs, having conversations, stopping in for a beer. We have a great time together. 

Of course, Heather Leigh also initiated me into life in the States, especially through regular visit to Houston, Texas, where her family lives. At first Houston seemed to me to be nothing but a mess of freeways, strip malls and suburbs but if you have the patience and the time to commit to fully uncovering it then there is a real underground there, an amazing folk art scene too and you soon realise why Houston has been home to so many great one-off artists like DJ Screw and Jandek. You can really disappear there and make your own art, in secret. I came to love Texas hip-hop. Still, being in the States only served to reinforce my understanding of myself as a European. That, ultimately, is the culture that I love. There’s only so much USA I can take. 

Interview made by Joeri Bruyninckx/2015
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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Psychic Baos - Society’s Lien on Piece of Mind/Can’t Keep Us Down (2015) review

 Psychic Baos - Society’s Lien on Piece of Mind/Can’t Keep Us Down EP – 7” (Magnetic South Records, 2015)

I instantly fell in love with Psychic Baos when I first heard 2014’s Our Friends Call Us Horse and Magnetic South hooked me up a copy of their first cassette The Death Of Bob Plant.  Both releases are just absolutely killer and left me craving more.  I don’t toss around the lo-fi moniker much, as I think most people either don’t pull it off or are just trying way too hard. Psychic Baos on the otherhand are the kind of band that effortlessly defines the label in the best possible senses.  The warm attractive sound of their recordings welcomes you in from the moment you hit play or drop the needle until that last note of sweet psychedelia drips out of your speakers.  With their latest release, again for Magnetic South though this time on much deserved wax in the form of a seven-inch, Psychic Baos delivers a four track blow to the dome in the form of this year’s Society’s Lien on Piece of Mind/Can’t Keep Us Down EP.  Starting off with “Fluicide” Psychic Baos have the organs cranked up on this sucker and the shimmering guitars sit just below it, melting in and out of the mix with the tambourine and the taught, rhythmic tapping of the percussion.  If you can keep from bopping your head and tapping your toe to this one I’m not sure you like psych rock.  Delivered here in one of its purest forms, this is some gorgeously stripped down and melodious music.  The echoing glimmer of feedback that ends “Fluicide” leads directly into the second track “Poisoned Man”, which for whatever reason is just synonymous with Psychic Baos’ sound in my mind and clearly shows off their roots.  The music’s clearly extremely rooted in garage rock and filtered through the gaze of psych and Psychic Baos’ unique refinement process to create the final mind altering unction.  “Sudden Living” is probably my favorite track on the EP.  The dark ominous drone in the background of the music perfectly teams with the repetitive chanting vocal line to create a perfect storm.  The vocals reverberate and bounce down a hallway of organ grinder tunes and looped lines of dialog and feedback.  It’s a kind of timeless sounding song, owing as much to the hollow booming echo of 80’s music production as it does the down and dirty garage and psych rock of the late 60’s and early 70’s, although I’m still not quite sure how they pull it off so masterfully or make it seem so easy.  “Wallet is Dead” finishes off the small collection of songs perfectly, delivering a hefty dose of droning psychedelia, reverberating and bouncing throughout the entire song, along with the finely tuned garage rock sound that makes the music so accessible and Psychic Baos is quickly becoming synonymous with.  This has got a little something for the entire family in a small package and I’m beyond stoked not only to just get another Psychic Baos release, but to see them finally getting some wax out there as well.  I’ve still got my fingers crossed for a full-length LP from them sometime, and hopefully sometime soon.  That’s enough how wind out of me though!  Click on the link below and check out some music, make sure you buy an EP if you like what you hear and once you’re done join me in the collective call for Psychic Baos to get a LP out there, because this is one of the best singles you’ll pick up this year and it only begins to hint at what they might be capable of with forty-five minutes to play with…

Review made by Roman Rathert/2015
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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Creation of Sunlight - Creation of Sunlight (1968) review

Creation of Sunlight "Creation Of Sunlight" (Lion Productions, 1968/2005)

For many years, folks thought the name of this band was Creation Of Sunlight. But thanks to rock and roll sleuths, the truth finally came to light. Sorry, I can never resist a pun! In any case, "Creation Of Sunlight," which was Sunlight's only album, initially appeared on the Windi label in 1968 in a limited run of five hundred copies. Remarkably obscure, the album was bootlegged a couple of times, but this platter is the one to get. Aside from being a legitimate release, the sound quality is excellent, plus bonus tracks and liner notes are included.

Starring Gary Young on lead vocals, Carl Estrella on lead guitar, Don Sain on rhythm guitar, Steve Montague on bass, Jerry Grifffin on keyboards, Bob Morgan on drums, and Ron Clark on percussion, flute, and saxophone, Sunlight expertly bonded commercial aspirations with an experimental rim. The band's handle certainly suited them, as their sharply scripted songs were bright and cheery. High spirited harmonies, not unlike those of the Association and the Strawberry Alarm Clock, pervaded the plot, while Sunlight's jazzy psychedelic pop instrumentation easily draws parallels to the Doors and Iron Butterfly. The constant presence of a whirling and curling organ supplies the material on "Creation Of Sunlight" with a rich and deep tenor, where the guitars alternately ring and reel with excitement.

Every single song on the album is seriously fantastic, but my personal favorites are the swinging vanilla soul of "Rush Hour Blues," the sweeping glee of "In The Middle Of Happy," and "Fun Machine" that involves a tight and insistent jam. "Seven Times Infinity," "Hammond Eggs," and "Second Thoughts" are other songs I keep returning to, not to mention a smoking hot tribute to John Fred and The Playboys in the form of "Judy In Disguise (With Glasses)" that was pressed as a single and was not originally featured on the album. Driven by an optimistic mood, both lyrically and sonically, "Creation Of Sunlight" is a perfect example of flower power rock done right. Bathed in rays of juicy melodies, blissed-out singing, and progressive tempos and arrangements, the album offers endless treasures. It's not hard to hear the joy Sunlight experienced cutting the record, and we can only imagine where their subsequent steps would have taken them had they continued making music.

Review made by Beverly Paterson/2015
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Sunday, August 9, 2015

Acid Mothers Temple and The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. - High on New Heaven, Live in New Haven (2015) review

Acid Mothers Temple and The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. – High on New Heaven, Live in New Haven (Safety Meeting Records, 2015)

The folks out at Safety Meeting Records have been busy brewing up something extra special in their sonic laboratory lately and the resulting live album is one of the sweetest I’ve heard in a long, long time!  There may never have been a more appropriate opening to an album than this: “It’s 4:20, so please to high on…”  They’re the only words that precede the insane blistering noise and psychedelic psychosis that is the opening track on Acid Mothers Temple and The Melting Paraiso U.F.O.’s new album Live In New Haven “Born Free Stone Free”.  I don’t speak a lick of Japanese, so I have no idea what the song’s about, but I do know that the bone crunching rhythm guitar, spiraling feedback and noisy spatial explosions amongst the airtight rhythm section of The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. builds to an absolute frenzy maybe three minutes into the song.  It then erupts into utterly mind blowing territory, serving up a heaping helping of destructive lead lines and solos interweaving, combining, separating, impacting and repeating - over and over again.  This is what psych rock is all about; balls out, dead ahead rock’n’roll that’d make your poppa proud; or at least my father would be.  Slowly throttling the song back and then propelling it into the concussive lead once more before then trundling back into the main rhythm at what seems like double time, is a hell of a way to build up some steam and it certainly serves to make room for the next brash beast of a song in the procession, “In Search Of Lost Divine Arc”.    Much more mellow and contemplative than its predecessor, “In Search Of Lost Divine Arc” sounds a lot like the name would imply.  Tentacles of hypnotic rhythmic soloing reach up from a maw of gathering darkness and a general sense of foreboding that’s beginning to condense, the vocals now a mere distant chant to some long forgotten gods, dissipating and evaporating into the ether.  Suddenly, the listener is transported from the friendly unassuming setting of the concert in New Haven, to a twisted labyrinth of unsettling, lurching rhythms that spasm and jerk in tormented bursts.  “In Search Of The Lost Divine” creeps up your back like the first rising vibes of an acid frenzy, uncontrollable and inescapable – it’s like some sort of unstoppable force of nature or something…  At nearly eighteen minutes long it almost seems inconceivable that “In Search Of The Lost Divine” isn’t the main focal point of Live In New Haven, the crucial juncture from which all other inlets of inspiration spring, but “Pink Lady Lemonade” (Part One and Two) is probably the heart and soul of the album honestly.  Both sprawling and enigmatic, “Pink Ldy Lemonade” begins innocuously enough, with a few minutes of soft jangling bass and guitar basically alone with no percussion and few other backing sounds.  What you can’t hear the first time you’re listening to the album is the slow burning energy and lithe rhythm that Acid Mothers Temple And The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. are cultivating.  After “In Search Of The Lost Divine” the opening to “Pink Lady Lemonade” is so raw it’s very nearly underwhelming in the beginning, but by the time the drums kick in about four minutes into “Pink Lady Lemonade” and it really starts to get some traction and move ahead, the song has already washed over you like a cleaning wave of psychedelic enlightenment.  The transcendent noise and clamor build to a crescendo of deceivingly powerful, slow and seemingly slightly heartbroken melodies, that stack on top of each other to create something new, unique and beautiful; something freeing and wonderful.  One of the most potent elements of psychedelic music, at least to me, is its ability to remove the mind from the corporeal body and allow it to traverse an endless plain of unending multiverses and never ending possibilities, unhindered by the physical realm and entering into the metaphysical.  But rarely is it so purely conjured up, or so deftly delivered with efficiency.  In fact, while listening to “Pink Lady Lemonade” it’s easy to understand how Acid Mothers Temple has lasted twenty years, the very occasion that marked the release of this material, which was recorded during the 420 holidaze celebrations of 2013.  And thank god this was recorded and released!  An album like Live In New Haven can’t be rehearsed or planned.  It can’t be written out or formulated, bottled or practiced.  It can only happen when the band open themselves up and allow the universe to speak through them with single minded purpose, operating as a singular unit to channel and deliver the messages of the universe as untouched as possible.  The shimmering peak of “Pink Lady Lemonade” is as near to a spiritual revelation through music as you’re likely to find; completely spectacular in its unfettered madness, seemingly pure and unspoiled.  By the time that the screeching sonic bursts that signify the break between Parts One and Two came along, I had completely lost myself in the music.  I felt adrift in space, floating in the endless space of the infinite, but somehow I knew I was still sitting on the couch in my living room, if I thought about it hard enough I could even see myself just sitting there.  Musical epiphanies, hallucinations and balls out psych, I’ll tell you what, this album’s one hell of a trip!  Thankfully the second half of “Pink Lady Lemonade” retains all of the hypnotizing vocal chanting and fuzzy mesmerizing guitar of the first, but kicks the energy level up another notch and rockets Acid Mothers Temple and The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. back into hyperdrive, now headed back to planet earth at a million miles an hour, tearing through the fiery blanket of the stratosphere and plummeting towards the terra firma.  The last four minutes of “Pink Lady Lemonade” might well be the heaviest thing on Live In New Haven, and that’s saying something.  They’re like four minutes of freefall, and you can almost taste your heart in your throat the whole time as you battle against mounting g-forces that threaten to implode your chest cavity and pop your lungs like water balloons!  Then, the tempo shifts down just ever so slightly as to allow Makoto Kawabata to truly shine through the seeming chaos.  There’s definitely a reason that he’s become known as one of the godfather’s of Japanese psychedelia, and this is prime proof right here.  The sheer number of different instruments, sounds, and elements that find their way into “Pink Lady Lemonade”, slowly unhinging its rhythm and melody bit by bit, piece by piece, are utterly gob stopping.  But even “Pink Lady Lemonade doesn’t last forever and eventually we come to “Cometary Orbital Drive”, which starts with some of the only audible speaking on the recording.  This serves as a good reminder that Live In New Haven isn’t some protracted studio experiment or anything, this is just a couple of guys on a stage with instruments, one the spot, right then and there, which is all too easy to forget while you’re listening to the album honestly.  The recording is so crisp, the performance so decisive and so well executed, that you have to keep reminding yourself this is a live album, or at least I do.  With “Cometary Orbital Drive” Acid Mothers Temple and The Melting Paraiso UFO immediately sink their teeth into a gnarly jam from the get go, a simplistic but tasty guitar riff leading the way for explorative space sounds and a confident striding bass rhythm that seems to be the real beating heart at the center of everything.  The slow shift up in time is almost imperceptible until you find yourself nearly levitating out of your seat with tension, hands tense and taught with white knuckles digging into the arm rest beside you.  “Cometary Orbital Drive” begins to invade your brain cavity as the song continues to gain momentum, building like a freight train snapped loose of its controls, rocketing towards some unknown destination an infinity away.  A clamoring wall of fuzz finally builds to a head like a great wave, and eventually breaks, receding back into the ocean of sound and prophesying the oncoming sensory onslaught which is the perfectly named final track on Live In New Haven, “Space Speed Suicide”.  The berserk energy comes to a head here on the final side of the final LP and honestly I don’t know how else you could have ended this album.  The psychotic fits of energy summoned up from the very gates of psychosis are repacked into something tangible, something almost understandable, into something most definitely audible if nothing else.  The howling rhythmic vocals tumble and spill over the wet, distorted guitar lines and hammering bass to join forces with the bone jarring drums, hopping like frogs in a dynamite pond now.  And just when you think things can’t get any harder, the band begins to push farther and farther, harder and harder, probing the abyss of madness for jewels of forgotten knowledge and splendor, ejecting the frantic energy from the song like a shell casing before it finally comes to a grinding halt with the ear piercing feedback of an abused guitar now abandoned and forgotten on an empty stage.  Some people hate live albums.  I’ve always loved them and Live In New Haven is one of those albums I can point to as a great example of why that is.  It allows the truest, deepest, and rawest intentions and components of a band to show through, completely unconstrained or tainted by anyone or anything else in the world.  And that’s not always such a good thing.  In this case though, it’s an amazing one.  I highly recommend scoring the triple-LP set, which is strictly limited to a one time pressing of only 400 copies.  There’s already been an edition of a 100 copies on color vinyl with wicked screen-printed covers that’s sold out, and from what I understand the black wax of Live In New Haven is disappearing at a pretty brisk pace as well.  Live In New Haven isn’t just an essential own for fans of Acid Mothers Temple, it’s in fact more likely a staple in just about any self-respecting contemporary psychedelic rock enthusiasts collection these days.  The shifting soundscapes of Live In New Haven make it an extremely versatile album, with blistering solos, leads and instrumental breaks this is a must have for fans of face melting madness like Earthless or Heavy Blanket, but the slow burning energy of other tracks makes it a must own for fans of more mellow instrumental stuff like GOAT as well.  This album deserves a spot on your record shelf, rest assured…  Check out the link below for some streaming music, and if you like what you hear check out the other link and make sure to cop yourself some of this sweet, sweet psychedelia before it’s all gone!

Review made by Roman Rathert/2015
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Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Hemingers – What’s A Heminger? (2015) review

The Hemingers - What’s A Heminger? EP – 7” (Magnetic South Records, 2015)

Heaven help us all, the Hemingers have delivered another slab of absolute insanity.  Probably best known as Ben Lyons musical outlet, The Hemingers have a somewhat sporadic, if not always extremely entertaining, back catalog of seven-inches at this point for the likes of the absolutely killer Goodbye Boozy – so you know they’re legit.  Instantly conjuring up images of The Mummies and other lo-fi garage rock gods The Hemingers have offered up four new tracks of blown-out mental illness in the form of the What’s A Heminger seven-inch EP for the always amazing Magnetic South Records out of Indiana.  Starting fittingly with “What’s A Heminger?” the EP kicks things off in sinister style.  The vocals are crispy, chocked and filtered through what sounds like an old ribbon mic, reverberating and echoing like they were recorded at the bottom of the deepest well the band could manage to find.  Exactly what a Heminger is I still couldn’t tell you, but what I can tell you is that this is some severely infectious music; I don’t toss around The Mummies name lightly folks, they rocked my world like few others ever have!  If I were to attempt answer the question of what a Heminger was based on this song though, I would make a guess at some drunk crazy man, who plays some wicked rock’n’roll and drives a bad ass rat rod simply mowing down anything in his way while he’s blaring rock’n’roll on the radio the whole time.  Following out from that, “C’Mon Shake” takes the energy level up a notch and really gets things kicking from the start.  The unison vocals and breakneck speed team together to produce some top-notch garage psych here, at points they just completely unhinge the melody and attack the soul of the song twisting and bending it, decimating it to its very core.  “Junkie Jane” seriously almost sounds like an outtake from Never Been Caught.  There’s an infectious leather studs and biker feel to this one that just kicks your teeth in, crawls into your skull through the hole and immediately sets to tearing up anything that it can sink its teeth into.  The rampaging melody of “Junkie Jane” smashes around like a headless corpse for two and a half minutes, covering everything in gore and gnarly, fuzzy, distorted guitar exploding from every empty nook and cranny of the song.  “Little GTO” finishes things off.  It keeps the frantic energy of the rest of the EP up, while adding a little bit more of a melodic element at the same time and offering up some seriously sweet stop-and-go breaks in the song that could give any lesser band whiplash, instantaneously stopping on a dime and then rocketing back out of the gate several times throughout.  While the EP may end is never really winds down and “Little GTO” is a non-stop balls-to-the-walls example of the heinous, venomous garage rock that The Hemingers are capable of reeking like havoc on anyone who might be unsuspecting or momentarily unwary.  If you’ve not heard them yet, there’s a link below.  For everyone else who’s in the know, the same link will take you where you need to go to pick yourself up a copy.  Don’t miss this, it seriously non-stop fun from beginning to end!

Review made by Roman Rathert/2015
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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

JAZZ CORNER Presents: Charles Mingus - The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady (1963)

Charles Mingus - The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady (Impulse!, 1963)

I probably shouldn’t be reviewing any Jazz for awhile, as I just laid down some remarks concerning Bitches Brew, and now it seems that everything is overshadowed by Miles Davis for me. Never the less, it feels good to step back seven years, to 1963, and listen to what Charles Mingus was popping, and in Jazz years, that is a very long time.

Only when looking back is it possible to see where the artist was at the time, and Charles certainly had some ideas going on, and for my dollar, he’s expressed them with sophistication and grace. Certainly this album is not like the one’s so many treasure and have become accustomed to, but a Jazz man NEVER stands still, and if they do, then they have nothing to say.  

What hits me most, is his blending of traditional instruments, with those such as the Spanish guitar, and smooth Jazz with experimental sounds, chords and tempos ... and at times every instrument seems to be on its own adventure, seeking out a destination, like a game of marbles, where the shooter marble hits another, and those in turn strike two more, until and endless chain reaction is set in motion. And Mr. Mingus has certainly set a lot in motion with this recording.

One of the greatest pleasures in Jazz, is hearing the piece for the first time. While the album can certainly be exciting each time it’s heard, it is the first listen, following along, becoming one with journey, yet not knowing where things will end up, other than lost in total rapture ... and like any good movie script, Charles takes you down avenues, across parks, and through traffic that twists and turns. Yet, I always seem to end up at some remote curb side cafe with a silly smile on my face, with the waiter asking for my order, and I have no idea how I got there, or where in the city I am.

What a delightful slice of life.

Review made by Jenell Kesler/2015
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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Steve Wynn - Sketches in Spain (2014) review

Steve Wynn - Sketches in Spain (Omnivore Records, 2014)

Steve Wynn, late of the legendary band Dream Syndicate, and currently, seeming to be all things to all people, hits us with a massive undertaking, consisting of 19 tracks, creating a rock opus of sorts, with a sly nod to the brilliant Miles Davis album “Sketches Of Spain.”  Steve’s take on the whole issue simply revolves around the fact that the album was recorded “in” Spain, though one track denies this, and unlike Miles, there’s no Spanish influence ... other than the stylish bull on the cover, that again, evokes a visual image of “Sketches of Spain.”  What Wynn’s album does emulate, is the stylish sonic palette created by European new-wave and dance club singles.

If you live or have visited in the EU, and it mattered to you, you may have heard this release in its original formate, drawn from of two albums recorded between 2001 and 2009, and never seeing the American shores until collected here ... and I can assure you, it’s a monster to swim through.  There are deep riffs, unexpected vocals, unheard of arrangements, at times harking back images of Dream Syndicate, and at others, forcing me to question whether Steve even remembers those heady days, when he fired up a band who were sincerely one of the darlings of the industry, an indie grand slam, where he fronted a group of musicians who simply never had to pay their dues.  What did surprise me, was how much I felt the presence of Lou Reed while listening to these tracks ... and also David Byrne, which I can’t explain, though you’ll understand it when you hear it.

This release is surly going to further divide the Wynn camps, but those camps have been under division for a very long time.  Wynn himself describes his career as a “beautiful mess,” and as I revisit the lines “I’ll make a toast to the flesh, and not a ghost,” I can’t help but feel happy that I’m able to walk between those two camps.  It’s like tap dancing on a land mine, and the results are explosive.

Review made by Jenell Kesler/2015
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Monday, July 27, 2015

Stack interview

Stack were a band from Los Angeles, that formed out of various of quite successful bands. They done it all. They had a big opportunity to sign up with major label, they were one of the very first bands to appear in Pepsi commercial and what's most thrilling is that they played with many worldwide known musicians including Jimi Hendrix, The New Yardbirds (later Led Zeppelin) and A TON of others. Here's a complete story interview about one of the most incredible heavy psych bands, that sadly only released one LP - Above All in 1969. It's one of those special collectors items today, but not only due to the rarity, but also because of the quality. Stack delivered pure musical energy, which is a rare thing.

Can you tell us from which bands came members before forming Stack?

         Bill Sheppard: Well let's see, Rick Gould has agreed to participate, so I’ll allow Rick to fill in the blanks about himself and Kurt Feierabend. 

          Bill Sheppard: Bob Ellis and Buddy Clark came from a group called “The Fabs” and Buddy had previously been in a group called The Barons. Bob came from the drum and bugle corps at Magnolia High School.
          I came from a group called Denny and the Chancellors, playing tenor sax (studied in school band under the world class track athlete  – Archie San Romani jr.) and doing mostly background and sometimes lead vocals behind a duo of great singers – Gerard Belisle (now Ron Bell in San Diego, CA), and Denny Correl – (Denny - (RIP) was honoured as Gospel vocalist of the year in the US in 1978) which morphed into The Crispy Critters. One of our first gigs was a “Battle of the Bands” at Sandy McTavish’s club in the now annexed town of Olive, CA. As the winners of the battle we were rewarded some Fender Musical equipment, $500.00 cash, and a trip to a “Hollywood” recording session. That session turned out to be at Columbia Records with producer Terry Melcher (Beatles) and the artists The Dimension Five cutting basic tracks for The Monkees’ tunes and what very well could have been “Last Train to Clarksville” although I’m not quite certain (it was 50 years ago!). The Dimension Five’s leader/vocalist Jamie Browning (Bill Medley) was laying the vocal track to teach Davey Jones how to phrase and enunciate pop music songs, very cool! In the booth with us was a beautiful brunette woman who we later found out was Dina Martin (Dean Martin’s daughter and Melcher’s girlfriend). We had arrived! We were in awe of the public stature of Melcher (Doris Day’s son) and Dean Martin’s daughter and we were hanging with them in the studio!
         The Crispy Critters consisted of Russ Winstead (bass), Denny Taylor - RIP (lead guitar), Darryl Duey (drums), and Frank Moore (rhythm guitar) and me singing and playing auto harp and occasional tenor sax. We had a house gig at a club called The Paradox in Orange, CA. We played every Friday and Saturday night with a hypnotist named George Sharp. We’d play a set and then George Sharp did his hypnosis show, and then we’d close with another set of music. I can’t remember why the Crispy Critters split up, but at one point we were the opening act at The Hullabaloo Club in Hollywood (later to be known as The Aquarius Theater – (my first revolving stage experience) for The Yellow Pages, The Seeds, Mike Clifford ("I’m So Close to Kathy"), and others. The guys from The Fabs had come to The Paradox to see us perform, and later asked me to join their group as the singer. Their previous vocalist Bob Burton had died of a drug overdose so there was an opening for me and I took it. The Fabs had won the Pepsi Cola band battle in 1966 and had a record out that was beginning to chart. It was a fit and we played a number of venues throughout Southern California for a year or so and then The Fabs morphed - into The Wabash Spencer Band. We released a single on Bel Air Records with Jim Messina called “Part-time Woman/French Champagne and Caviar”. I sure wish I’d kept my copy of that, it should be worth some pretty good money today! 

Crispy Critters.

You were in The Fabs, which is another well-regarded band by 45s collectors. What's the story with them?

        Bill Sheppard: The Fabs had a recorded, “That's the Bag I'm In”, the flipside was “Dinah Wants Religion”. Their singer Bob Burton had recently died of a drug overdose that’s when they came looking for me. 
         The Fabs members were: John Skelton (rhythm guitar and vocals), Bob Ellis (RIP) drums, Buddy Clark (RIP) bass and vocals, Dennis Yarema (lead guitar), and me (vocals and tenor sax). John Skelton went on to record the single “Georgia Lady” with Billy Davis Junior and Marilyn McCoo from The 5th Dimension. The “Georgia Lady” that he sung about was a beautiful young blonde girl named Gem Gossum (Gem and I had a short fling a few years later). The times they were a changing, and so we changed the name from The Fabs too cutesy) to The Wabash Spencer Band (not so cutesy). We recorded a couple of songs at Gold Star Records on Melrose in Hollywood. One was “Somewhere Between Time and Space” that I sang, the other was “French Champagne and Caviar” that John Skelton sang. The single that was released on Bel Air Records was, “Part-time Woman” written, produced, and performed with us by Jim Messina (half of Loggins and Messina) and the flipside “French Champagne and Caviar”. Our manager Earl Dion and Messina decided that French Champagne and Caviar sounded more congruent with the style of “Part Time Woman” and so that track was used on the flipside of the single.

Were you in any other bands that recorded something back then?

        Bill Sheppard: The first group I was in that recorded a single was “Denny and the Chancellors” about 1964. That group consisted of Denny Taylor (RIP), Russ Winstead, Daryll Duey, Benny Maddox (RIP) (country singer Rose Maddox’s nephew), and me. We recorded a Tim Morgan tune from his “Live at the Prison of Socrates” album entitled “The Cat Came Back”. It was a kind of a “surfed up” version of his folk song. I still have that single. A year or so later (1965), I was asked into that same studio to do vocals for a local group’s recording (apparently their singer had pitch and/or phrasing problem), so I laid the vocal on “Mister You’re a Better Man Than I”, (Yardbirds) for them. I ran into that same singer (I replaced) at a jam session in Fullerton, CA in 2005 and he was still resentful at me for singing on “his” band’s record, bummer! The guy was still pissed off after 40 years!

So how exactly did Stack form?

         Bill Sheppard: Well, Wabash Spencer was playing a regular Monday night gig at the hippest place in town, The Anaheim Bowl – a bowling alley on Lincoln Avenue in Anaheim that had a huge “community” room that could handle 500-1000 people, and it’s where all the kids from Anaheim and surrounding towns hung out (might not sound like much, but it was very cool and the only other place in town was Harmony Park Ballroom where Dick Dale played on the weekends). Club manager Mike Pinizzotto always booked a guest act to play a set or two with us from a stage off to the side, and one of those acts was a cool new group from Whittier called Stack. Their drummer was Robbie (Robin) Williams (16 years old) (not THE Robin Williams), left-handed bassist Kirk Henry (who later joined the group Christopher Milk) Jim Dole (their singer), Rick Gould (lead guitar) and Kurt Feierabend (rhythm guitar and vocals). Mike Pinizzotto  decided to dissect the two groups and form a “supergroup”. He liked my singing (but was told I was an ego tripper – actually I was very shy and uncomfortable except while on stage, but apparently it came across as arrogance). At the insistence of Bob Ellis the new supergroup decided to use me as their vocalist. So, with Bob’s drumming, Rick Gould's guitar work, and Kurt Feirabend’s vocals and stage presence, and the addition of local guitarist/bassist Chuck Berry (not THE Chuck Berry), the new Stack was launched.  
We rehearsed for a few weeks at Pinizzotto’s other club – Merlin’s in the city of Orange and began working our way into better clubs, even a concert with The New Yardbirds (soon to become Led Zeppelin). After about six months (maybe less) it was pretty obvious that Chuck was primarily a guitar player (a very good one) but, we needed a solid bass player so we went after Buddy Clark. That was tough – we met Chuck outside in the back of Marina Palace where you load/unload equipment into the venue, and I was elected to tell him that he wasn't working out and that we’d replaced him. Everybody else was dead silent, you could've heard a feather drop, except for Kurt over to the side playing softly on a harmonica, no other words were spoken and Chuck just drove away, whew, what a memory! Sorry Chuck, you have no idea how tough that was.

Why did you decide to use the name Stack?

         Bill Sheppard: Mike Pinizzotto liked the name Stack and so did the rest of us so it stuck. The name Stack was snatched (by Rick Gould) from a weekly or monthly cartoon out of a “beat” magazine of the time that was entitled “Stack on Tour”. We initially adopted the “Who-esque” use of American flags as the grill cloth on all of our speakers so our stage was always quite colourful. We were also later endorsed by Sunn amplifiers as were The Who, and so when The Who was not touring we used their same equipment for our backline, and if you were approaching the stage from the rear, all the speakers were spray painted with 12 inch letters "The Who!" This was all before the release of the “Tommy” album. Funny, we later hired ex-road manager of The Who – Joe Taylor. Joe got us all press passes/seats for the Who’s final LA show at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium before they returned to Europe to record the Tommy album. They were awesome – Keith Moon was still alive.

How did you get in contact with labels? 

         Bill Sheppard: It didn't really work like that. We spent the first year or so playing small nightclubs and playing cover material until we began to develop our own sound. In doing so, we began to grow weary of what we considered no progress and decided to drop Mike Pinizzotto as our manager . He still had the girls group Birtha under contract so he was otherwise occupied and we had been approached by a gentleman by name of Bill Robertson, who owned a large venue in Seal Beach called Marina Palace about managing us. Mr. Robertson took us on for the summer of ‘68 and locked us in Marina Palace every day for about 8 hours to rehearse. Sometimes we practised in front of a mirrored wall (in the girls restroom) to become comfortable with what we looked like from the audiences’ viewpoint. Rick began to write some of the material for “Above All” during that period. It was at Marina Palace that we played a great number of performances with Alice Cooper (the name of the band was Alice Cooper), Vince (Alice Cooper now) was a member of the band. Marina Palace was a premier venue for rock 'n roll back then and lots of “name” acts played there including – Little Richard, Strawberry Alarm Clock, The Righteous Brothers, Jerry Reid, etc. Bill Robertson also managed Dick Dale and a number of other artists of the time. Marina Palace is where Shep Gordon found Alice Cooper and signed them with Bizarre Records and 3rd Story Music. Clancy Grass had been sending out scouts, looking for acts to sign and one of those scouts, a gentleman by the name of Stephen Hoffman, brought Stack to Clancy and the recording scenario began. Clancy worked as a sub-producer for Sidewalk Productions owner Mike Curb. Stephen Hoffman co-wrote one of the tunes on Above All, “Hot Days”.

What's the story behind making Above All album?

         Bill Sheppard: You know, when you have inertia as a group, and audiences and other bands began to recognize that there’s something special happening, it’s easy to visualize and project your next level. We’d been writing and rehearsing original material for a while so Clancy and Roger Dollarhide (the engineer) began the selection process. I remember Kurt and I auditioning to be the singer on Stephen Hoffman’s tune – “Hot Days”. Apparently he liked my style for that tune better and I ended up singing it on the record. But, the album was simply a group of songs, not really a concept.

Were you playing a lot of shows before releasing an LP?

         Bill Sheppard: We played a ton of shows before the release of “Above All”, remember it was the ‘60s and most venues were really only open on the weekends. The Monday night gig at the Anaheim Bowl was really a fluke. Most cities in Orange County, California had ordinances against night time events that included young people and music. That’s a fact!
        Our first real concert was with “The New Yardbirds” (Led Zeppelin) at “The Purple Haze”, a converted bowling alley in Riverside, CA. Chuck Berry was still with us then. We opened for them (having no idea what the future held for either group). After the show there was an altercation with one of their roadies and Chuck our bass player at the time in the parking lot. The roadie pulled a knife and Chuck grabbed a mic stand and started swinging it in circles to keep the guy off him. It all settled down after a few minutes and nobody got hurt, but it was really exciting! About 3 months later they became Led Zeppelin, same guys, same material, and the rest was history. That may have been the gig that musically convinced us that we needed to make the bass player change, after all they had John Paul Jones!
        Next came Iron Butterfly - Buddy Clark had been working a straight (non-musical) gig at a warehouse in Buena Park for Knott’s Berry Farm (similar to Disneyland) which required him to have short hair. Rock bands of the late ‘60s had long hair, so Buddy decided to wear a wig, a great big “afro” wig ala Hendrix. We opened that night for Iron Butterfly at the Swing Auditorium in San Bernardino, CA when “In A Gadda Da Vida” was the #1 song in the world! I’d found a floor length robe previously owned by “Country Joe” of “Country Joe and the Fish”. It was burgundy velvet with greatly flared sleeves and lime green satin flames on the cuffs of the sleeves and the lapels. My pants were yellow, white and blue striped bell-bottoms (1/2 inch stripes, very large bells) and I had purchased some bright green patent leather shoes from a women’s shoe store (nobody made men’s shoes like that yet so I lied and told them that they were for my sister!). I wore no shirt, and a large dangling medallion. Bob Ellis wore a T-shirt reminiscent of the “bulls-eye” red, white, and blue one frequently worn by Keith Moon, and the other guys were equally elaborately dressed. There were about 8,000 people in the audience. We were up first, we opened with “Poison Ivy” (the 1st cut on “Above All”). It was a very explosive, punchy, high energy tune and as the curtains opened to expose us to the masses, lights in our faces, I could see that the previously seated crowd was now storming toward the stage. They had to line up security to keep them off of us. It was very exciting, almost sexual! A crowd rush! 
         The show went great as our strong harmonies, Bob’s drum solo (much better than the solo in “In A Gadda Da Vida”), and Rick’s “Clapton-esque”guitar solos won them over, we belonged! Backstage following the performance I was greeted by a young lady who asked if I would come out into the audience and meet her little brother (he was in a wheelchair, with a terminal illness, and he wanted to meet ME – it was very touching). Behind the scenes, our roadies – Kevin Prewitt, Vince Basse (later a Fender business executive, and John English – world renowned guitar builder for the Fender Custom Shop) had gotten us into some shit. Apparently, Iron Butterfly had purchased a bunch of cases of beer for their entourage and they were stacked in the hallway between our dressing rooms. Kevin (and the rest of us, hell it was only our 2nd big concert) believed it had been provided by the promoters for everyone backstage so he grabbed a case and brought it to our dressing room. Well, that didn't go over very well with Butterfly guitarist Erik Brann (RIP) who bitched, pissed, and moaned until we gave what was left of “our” case back. 
          Later that night we all went to breakfast at an all night diner in the area (we were about 80 miles from home) there were about 10 of us. Buddy decided to continue wearing the “afro” wig during our meal. We were in great spirits (conquest, victory!) and found that those little toothpicks that kitchens use to hold sandwiches together with the colourful saran-plastic guides on them worked great as little arrows to toss into Buddy’s wig (because he couldn't feel the impact). So every time he’d turn his head someone would shoot another colourful marker into his “hair”. He ended up looking like a fucking Christmas tree, we roared! Good times!
          Spirit was next at Foothill High School in Tustin, CA.  We didn't have a record out yet but we were confident and ready. At set-up, Randy California (RIP) noticed I was a bit nervous and came over to me and said, “hey kid, you look pretty uptight, do you want to get mellow?” I said, “mellow sounds really good right now”. He said, “follow me”. So we walked up the stairs and behind the light show projection screen onto the main body of the stage. He laid his guitar case down on the floor, opened it and pulled out a couple of badminton rackets and a birdie, handed me a racket, grabbed the birdie and the other racket and stepped back about 20 feet. We began to volley the birdie back and forth for about 5 minutes. With all the commotion going on around us during set-up for the show I was able to concentrate and focus on just that birdie (crude form of meditation) – and, I got mellow! Thanks Randy. I’ll bet you were expecting something completely different for a ‘60s story, huh?
          We continued to play every weekend during the recording process. One of the main venues was the Orange YWCA. Stack was becoming quite popular and on any given Friday night we would draw between 1000-1500 kids there to here us with an additional group – The Hook, Smokestack Lightning, The Zekes, and other “hot” acts of the time. Years later I was watching this Tom Hanks directed movie – “That Thing You Do” and I recognized the venue from the stage looking out toward the audience – it was filmed at the Orange YWCA! It was eerie remembering a building from that vantage point, knowing the room that well. It brought back memories of the screaming, wild audiences that showed up there for Stack. In fact the night we introduced our album to a live audience, was there from that very stage, pretty cool!
        Speaking of movies. During the Stack recording period, Mike Curb produced a movie – “Wild in the Streets” about 15 year old taking over the government and dosing everyone (with LSD) and putting anyone over 30 in a containment camp (funny, his name was removed from the film credits during his campaign for Lieutenant Governor of California!) Rick, Bob and Buddy were used as some of the musicians used for that soundtrack!
          After the record was finished and artwork approved (more info on this in a later question) we got some sample copies (little were we to know that they would be the ONLY copies, ever). The front page of The Hollywood Reporter read “Stack signs deal with Columbia Records”. Clancy began placing us around town at different venues. We played a “The Millionaire’s Club” for a party advertised as “The Fig” with The Flying Burrito Brothers, The Byrds, Smokestack Lightning and bunch of others. We played at The Whiskey A Go Go with Blues Image, Rockin Foo and others. We opened for Three Dog Night in Las Vegas when “One is the Loneliest Number” was the #1 song in America. That show was pretty wild! We travelled to Las Vegas with Ron Martin (a good friend and business executive from LA, later to be a personal manager), Charlie Lico (later to become vice President of Liberty Records in Nashville under Jimmy Bowen and my personal manager along with Larry Carlton, Abraham Laboriel Sr, Carlos Rios and many others) and a host of assorted friends. We were very cool, but very “low rent” and booked ourselves into a cheap motel off the strip. The venue was “The Ice Palace” an ice skating facility and hockey rink that was home to the local Las Vegas hockey team. We arrived first and picked the best dressing room. Kurt found a hockey jersey in the back that later became part of his wardrobe. The Three Dog Night entourage arrived and was really pissed that we’d taken the best dressing room, so there was a bit of tension backstage throughout the night. The stage was set up on a platform right on top of the wooden sheeted ice with a few rubber mats around the edges to keep you from slipping on your butt, and a set of stairs to climb up to the stage. It had a good sized drum riser to house Bob’s huge chrome Slingerland 26” double-kick kit (front cover of the 1969 Altec Lansing Catalogue was a picture of his kit). The audience’s chairs were aligned in rows on the plywood-sheeted ice. My friend Gary Richer had come along with us and had given me a couple of hits of powdered cannabinol (which has a tendency to make you high and very numb and rubbery feeling). I remember little of the show until the audience started cheering with fanatic approval. I had been over in front of the drum riser “head banging” to Bobby’s drums and I suddenly opened my eyes and realized a mic boom weight was directly in front of me and I had been banging my forehead on that boom, blood running down my face – that’s what they were cheering about! They thought it was part of the show… Meanwhile, Three Dog Night was about to take the stage and they were all psyched up to go play their set and came running out onto the sheeted ice landing behind the stage. I believe it was Corey who went a bit too far, crossed the boundary of the rubber mats, slipped on his butt, and slammed his head on the ice really hard. They waited a few minutes to make sure he was all right and then went on with their show. Meanwhile back at our cheap motel…..about 15 girls had found out where we were staying and were there when we returned from the show – ahh, the ‘60s…..
          About 30 years later, I was at a music store in Phoenix and a discussion broke out about who were the great bands in the old days that didn't really make it BIG. The guy behind the counter said “at the Ice Palace in Vegas in 1969, I saw a band called Stack that has stuck out in my memory for all these years, hell, the singer even banged his head on a boom stand and got all bloody, those guys were fuckin’ great!”

Ruby Wheeler at Chino Prison - L-R - Bill Sheppard, John Durzo, David Mohr.

Which material did you play?

         Bill Sheppard: In the beginning we played a mix of Bee Gees (pre- Saturday night Fever), Beatles, Yardbirds, Who, Cream, etc. We began to gravitate toward signature songs for each vocalist. Kurt did “Stone Free” by Hendrix, “Sitting on Top of the World”, by Cream, “Magical Mystery Tour” by The Beatles, that kind of stuff. I did “Hurdy Gurdy Man”, by Donovan, “And the Sun Will Shine” by The Bee Gees, “Substitute” by The Who, and that kind of stuff.  All three of us (Rick, Kurt, and myself) had real strong voices. There was no such thing as monitor speakers at the time and so a vocalist had to sing loud enough to be heard  (and to hear themselves) over a heavy hitting drummer, booming bass, and a couple of Marshall stacks. Ah, the good old days! Huh?

Where did you record? Who was the producer?

          Bill Sheppard: We recorded part of the record at Sunwest Studios in Hollywood. Our engineer was Roger Dollarhide, the producer was Clancy Grass. A couple of the sessions followed nights of recording where George Harrison and Jimi Hendrix had been in that same studio. The tune “Da Blues” was cut live at Producer’s Workshop (the room was connected to The Mastering Lab where Doug Sachs etched his name in history) the same night that we filmed our Pepsi-Cola commercial.

What kind of equipment did you use?

          Bill Sheppard: We were sponsored by Sunn Amplifiers who also sponsored. Buddy Clark used 2 Sunn Coliseum heads two 4x12 Altec boxes and two 2x15 JBL boxes Kurt used a Sunn head and JBL 215 Sunn cabinet. Rick was always experimenting with speakers, heads and guitars he was a real innovator, he used HiWatt, and Marshall heads mostly switching frequently looking for THE sound. He was also a fantastic guitarist! I remember a night at The White Room (a concert venue in the city of Buena Park) we were doing a show with the Illinois Speed Press who had guitarists Paul Cotton (later with Poco) and Kal David (later with The Fabulous Rhinestones). Rick took a solo and these guys ran out from the back dressing room to see and hear his solo because he was so good! Later on Rick settled in on a 100 W Marshall head and 4x12 slant cab in fact he received those from Clancy Grass as part of our signing. We picked up that Marshall half stack and a new Gibson flying V from Wallach’s Music City at Hollywood and Vine.
          The night we worked with the Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Miles at “The Experience” in Hollywood, Hendrix was really drunk and loaded and wanted to use Rick’s new Marshall amp. Rick had John English (his guitar roadie) pull the fuse caps from the head so Hendrix couldn't use the amp! Rick stated – “I don’t’ want that drunk fuckin’ (n-word) bastard touching my shit!” John English ended up being quite a well-known man in his own rite, he was one of the most sought after guitar builders in the world from the Fender Custom Shop. He remained a great friend throughout our lives and passed away a few years ago, I sang at his funeral. 

What about cover artwork?

          Bill Sheppard: The front cover art is a Maxfield Parrish painting called “StarsClancy was married to one of the Paris Sisters (“I Love How You Love Me”) singing group from the early 60s, and they were kind of snooty in their taste, Hollywood and Hollywood-ish if you will, and the art was their choice. We approved that as the front cover art and the back cover was supposed to be the full size of the jacket itself as we didn't like how small the picture appeared, but because of the problems with Columbia Records and finally ending up with Charisma we never got to edit it. Buddy Clark’s name on the first run was mistakenly printed as “Billy” and until the album was re-released years later was never changed.

You released your LP on Charisma Record. For what kind of a deal did you signed?

          Bill Sheppard: The album on Charisma Records, well this was a real bummer! Good Question! We originally signed with Columbia Records, Bob Ellis had in his scrapbook a copy of the “Hollywood Reporter” magazine with the headlines stating “Columbia Records signs Stack” they offered us at the time in 1968 I believe it was $75,000 in today's world that that's not much money but in 1968 it was equivalent to perhaps $500,000.00 today. A house cost $20,000! You could buy a new Volkswagen car for $2,000! So it was quite a bit of money, and then Clancy got his big idea! He decided that he was going to push Columbia for an additional $75,000 to introduce us to the national media by flying out all the writers from the teen magazines to Alcatraz (which was then vacant), and have them served dinner on metal plates with metal cups “inmate style” and then present Stack in concert! He was so sold on that idea that he wouldn't let go of it and Columbia dropped us! There was another deal that was in the works with Happy Tiger Records which was distributed by Tetragrammaton, of the time but that fell through too. 

How did promotion looked like. I read in another interview, that you made commercial for Pepsi or something like that?

          Bill Sheppard: Charisma, I believe was a label that Clancy just came up with, so the promotional $$ at this point was out of the question. He kept the group working a little but we had to basically work around town at all the same venues to the same audiences until the record was released and that took about nine months. It seemed like forever! However, we were the first rock group in United States to record and film a Pepsi-Cola commercial. It was a four-camera shoot at “Producer’s Workshop” when the album deal with Columbia was still on the table and going strong. Once the album deal with Columbia had fallen through, they weren't interested in a new band with a “no-name” label to promote this big Pepsi commercial, so it went up on the shelf!

You played with a lot of bands. Is there a certain story that you would like to share with us?

          Bill Sheppard: Yeah, we played with a lot of big groups. We opened for Three Dog Night in Las Vegas when “One is the Loneliest Number” was number one song in the USA. We opened for Iron Butterfly when “In a Gadda Da Vida” was number one in the USA, we played with Chicago Transit Authority, Illinois Speed Press, The New Yardbirds, The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Miles, Smokestack Lightning, The Hook, Blues Image, Alice Cooper was our opening act on many occasions, the list goes on and on… okay sorry, getting carried away, a story We were being touted as the up and coming young group in LA and landed a gig at The Millionaires Club – a party night advertised as The Fig. There were two stages downstairs in two separate areas in this giant mansion. The upstairs rooms were used as dressing rooms, but there was no toilet we were aware of. I had a habit of drinking a quart of grapefruit juice before a show to clear the mucus from my throat and had finished it just before we went on. We weren't our usual amazing selves that night, we were just mediocre, no vibe, flat. Previously to heading downstairs for our set, I had to pee and filled my quart bottle, put the cap back on it, and set it over in a corner. After our set we were accompanied by some Hollywood press, and Rodney Bingenheimer and Screaming Lord Sutch who had come to find out what all the fuss was about with these newbies. They were half lit and thirsty. We chatted for a few minutes and I noticed Rodney had slipped over toward the corner where he was just tipping the bottle of fresh urine toward his mouth! I screamed “NOOOOO!” thus saving Rodney from a bout of being totally pissed!

I know it can be a bit hard to answer, but still can you comment each song from your album?

Poison Ivy – We needed a “banger” to start the record, this version brought us a stage rush at the Iron Butterfly show.

Only Forever – smoked a joint of Acapulco Gold before the session, I was really high, Rick was really pissed!

Da Blues – what a gas! We cut the tune live in the studio and I redid the vocal in 1 take after the fact. The audience in the background is our roadies and us drunk on our butts! It’s all men, sounds like a gay bar!

Cars – the protest song from the greatly uninformed – we were too young to be informed yet, but boy could we protest!

Everyday – Cool tune, you can really hear Kurt’s voice and talent on this one – I added the “Hollies” type harmony – solo’s too long for my taste.

Valleys – I actually co-wrote this with Rick and didn't get credit for it. He wanted the vocal line to match the instruments and I cut it in half and added the falsetto background vox, we wrote the lyrics together.

Time Seller – very cool tune – I like my vocals on this one – Kurt and I at the vamp singing “Time Seller the” out of sync (intentionally) with the rest of the tune.

Hot Days – this was Clancy’s choice and we did our best with it, not really our type of song – but it came out cool!

Do It – Kurt’s shot at getting one in – pretty cool little ditty.

Was there also a single out along the album?

          Bill Sheppard: No single, but if I were to choose one I’d pick “Time Seller”. Rick did an outstanding job writing and playing on that tune and I like my vocal!

How many copies do you think came out?

          Bill Sheppard: Great question! – I’m not certain, maybe 100 before Clancy pulled the plug. That’s why the record is so valuable, last I checked it was worth $7,500.00

What happened after your LP was out?

          Bill Sheppard: Initially, we were very excited. I remember the night at the Orange YMCA (same stage Tom Hanks filmed “That Thing You Do” from) we had copies to flash at the audience and they were wild for it (maybe 1000 people). But as mistakes came to the surface – 1) Buddy being labelled Billy on the jacket, 2) the rear cover picture not being large enough, 3) Clancy losing the Columbia contract by pressuring them for more $$, etc. we began to tire of the same old venues. Then Clancy booked us into “Finnegan’s Rainbow” in Costa Mesa. Big problem! They wanted us to play 4 hours a night! Clancy wanted us to stay and work the place 4 days a week for a while until he could secure some new bookings. Here’s the problem – we had become this high energy, dynamic, original concert band that put out all our energy in a ONE hour show two to three times a week = total of 3 hours. In those three hours I could lose 5-7 pounds because I was very active on stage. I pleaded with the guys and Clancy to not take this gig. Clancy countered with bringing in Lee Oskar (War) to take over half of the soloing duties on harmonica and that gave me a little breathing room but it wasn't enough. It was too physically draining on me to use “concert energy” for nightclub hours and the material didn't work well without that energy, so I quit!

Why did you decided to disband?

          Bill Sheppard: Also, because our popularity was soaring locally, we had each developed a small group of “hangers-on”. Each of those little groups had their favourites – some people really liked Kurt because he was aloof and really looked “rock-starry”, Rick was the “guitar-player’s guitar player”, etc. Those little cliques intentionally or not caused dissension among the group members, comparisons, better-than shit, squabbles and finally for me, escape.

Bad Hair Day - Bill Sheppard, Bob Ellis.

What's your opinion about hallucinogens?

          Bill Sheppard: Then - in the ‘60s I became a member of that culture and used hallucinogens (mostly psilocybin) to open a pathway to higher thought as there weren't many avenues outside of religion and I’m NOT religious, to take.
Now – I’m free of everything. No sugar, no red meat, no dairy, no gluten, no booze, no smoke, no shit! I’m doing everything in my power to stay as young as I can.

What occupied your life after Stack? What occupies your life now?

          Bill Sheppard: When I left the group, I joined with a small band of hippies and we started a candle company – Om Hill Candles – in the mountains of Southern California. About a year later (with my hair down to my butt) I approached Clancy Grass with a bunch of folk music songs I’d been writing in the mountains using the local birds as critics to whether a song was a “keeper” or not and along with my guitarist buddy – Frank Moore who later became the lap steel guitar and fiddle player for Hoyt Axton. He and I recorded that folk music album for Clancy Grass (Above All - producer) in collaboration with Jack Spina (Pat Boone’s manager) and Pat Boone. That album was “Sheppard and Moore” we finished recording it on Valentine's Day 1970 (the night my first daughter Joey was born). I wrote, playing guitar, all the material for that record except for a tune called “Uncle Rogie’s Lullaby” by Roger Dutton (a good friend of Jackson Brown) Frank, an excellent finger style player did the guitar work and I sang all the cuts. I’d written various orchestral arrangements for the tunes, but Clancy (being very budget conscious) decided to lay a flute on all the tracks and the flute player never conferred with me, so the phrasing and counterpoint sucked and the album got shelved. Sad, it was a very good product of the times. And NO I don’t have any copies! 
Next was the group “Dr. God”. It was a 1972 “mini-orchestra” ala ELO (but about 4 years before them) It featured Steven Anderson on guitar (later to be Stevie Wonder’s recording engineer and chief audio engineer at Capitol Records), Nelson Guillory on guitar, Stuart Paul on keyboards, and Steven Segal on drums (a year or so before he left the USA for Japan to study Aikido and a cellist and 2 violinists. We rehearsed for and played one concert at the Fullerton Junior College Theater. The subject matter of the show was a mini-rock opera entitled “Popsicle Planet Suite” by Stuart Paul. Steven Anderson being an avid engineer recorded the show. The group disbanded after that.
A few years after that, Rick Gould and I were picked up by a producer – James Clyde Lutrell - and a wonderful recording act was put together – Ruby Wheeler. We managed to put together 5 hours of intricate, beautiful, soulful original music right at the time that “disco” was being introduced and went through our budget trying to find a home to play at, to no avail. Many years have passed, lots of groups, songs, recording projects – Max Gringo, Sheppard, Adey, and Mudd, Family of Man and many more.

Bill Sheppard, Ogden Mudd.

I’m presently playing acoustic guitar and singing in a folk type trio – That’s All Folk - that works constantly and enjoying the hell out of it!
I’m also the North American Distributor for Mad Professor Amplification out of Finland which keeps me busy and close to the industry.
In my personal life, I’ve been married to my wonderful wife Debbie, 2 weeks shy of 33 years and have 4 children – Joey, Starr, Billy, and Danny – and 6 grandchildren.

Shaq and me at Shaq’s house in LA.

How about other members?

          Bill Sheppard: Well, Bob Ellis and Buddy Clark have both passed on, I have had no contact with Kurt for almost 40 years, and from what I understand he wants nothing to do with his previous, rock and roll life and/or memories of it. And Rick – Rickey Gould lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico and at present is a caregiver for his elderly mother. Rick and I speak on occasion, but like Bob Dylan said – the times they are a changin’. My old fire is still there and I’m grateful I can still flash it when I need to!
This has been a very cathartic experience for me and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the opportunity to go back and touch places that needed to be revisited and remembered and healed.

Stack: from left - John English, Bill Sheppard, Bob Ellis, Buddy Clark, Rick Gould, Kurt Feierabend.
L-R Bill Sheppard, ?, Buddy Clark outside a local rockers 50th birthday.

Thanks so much for taking your time. Sadly Bob Ellis and Buddy Clark passed away a few years. Would you like to recollect something?

          Bill Sheppard: Buddy Clark was a world-class bass player. He was honest and stubborn and simple. He didn't have a mean bone in his body. He spent the last 10 years of his life as the bass player for James Harman’s band. We respected each other – I attended his funeral and I wept.
          Bob Ellis was one of the nicest human beings you’d ever meet. He was funny, silly, sincere, and a best friend to many. He was loved and is missed. After Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” they came looking for Bobby to play drums for their band – he chose us! Bob was my friend – I attended his funeral and I wept.

My wife Debbie and me – 2013.

Interview made by Klemen Breznikar/2015
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