Pete Nolan interview about Magik Markers, Spectre Folk, Valley of the Ashes and beyond…

October 3, 2011

Pete Nolan interview about Magik Markers, Spectre Folk, Valley of the Ashes and beyond…

I’m glad we can discuss about some of your music work, Pete. You are involved with so many different music projects, that is almost impossible to discuss all of them. I’ll start with questions about project called Valley of Ashes. I remember seeing the cover artwork of Cavehill Hunters’ Attrition and I thought to myself, this has to be some tribal, psychedelic music and when I finally heard the album I was totally amazed! It’s a mixture of influences and atmosphere I enjoyed the most. I can hear influences of Ya Ho Wha 13 and many other obscure groups from the ’70s.
Tell me, Pete… How did you start project Valley of Ashes (why such a name and what does the album Cavehill Hunters’ Attrition mean?)?
Well I can’t really take sole credit for Valley of the Ashes … as it was an 8 person band… but I certainly helped sway it’s direction and was a catalytic component of it’s inception.  Most of the members of VOA had been members of a Louisville free music collective known as Sapat.  Sapat had existed for many years and had a constantly changing cast of characters but the core of the group was always Kris Abplanalp and David Sauter.  (Kris is responsible for the release of the VOA record and he runs the Black Velvet Fuckere label).  Louisville is quite a place.  It reminds me of some remote outpost of America that’s almost seperate for some reason.  Like there’s an invisible veil around the place that keeps it seperate from the rest of the country and the world.  Louisville is inhabited by some of the most interesting character I’ve come across in America.  Folks that are really inspired and impassioned by art and creation and things that have gone  on in other times and places far removed from their own place and time.  Each person kind of has their own individual worldview seperate from everyone else tied to these far away ideas and things that loom so large in their consciousness that they envelope them and occassionally destroy them.  I think there maybe some other places in the midwest like this… maybe Colombus ohio or something… but Louisville has got the strongest mystique for me because I’ve spent a couple years of my life there and I can see it from the perspective of an outsider who’s been inside.    Anyway… Valley of the Ashes started out in my apartment in downtown Louisville on a Halloween night with me and Kris and his girlfriend and I think my friend Rob and maybe David Sauter jamming on acoustic guitars… maybe playing some Velvet Underground songs and drinking a lot of bourbon… the band grew some big black wings and took off from there.  Cavehill… refers to the giant cemetary in Louisville that winds all over the hills around the highlands.  It’s where Colonel Sanders is buried.  You’ll have to ask Kris what Cavehill Hunter’s Attrition means… but I seem to remember wandering around Cavehill Cemetary with handheld tape recorders trying to pick up the voices of the dead via Electronic Voice Phenomenon.  

What did inspire you to do Cavehill Hunters’ Attrition?
Like I said Valley of the Ashes started off as a 5 piece band of acoustic guitars augmented by some shakers and maybe a synthesizer… but it soon grew into an 8 or 9 pieces orchestra of musicians playing every instrument (mostly acoustic) that was suitable to play in my apartment downtown.  Banjo’s, slide, guitars, upright bass, synth, 2 violins, a couple of drummers.  We started off playing a few orriginal tunes and some covers just as launching off points for extended jams that had no form or ending.  It was a free flowing entity.  We recorded everything that went on via a Pressure Zone mic into a portable cassette deck.  Everything on the 3 lp is from recordings made in my apartment or a few live gigs.  I gave the tapes to Kris and he and his brother Wesly they slide guitar player,  assembled them into the record.
Where did you record it and who all was a part of?
Like I said it was made mostly from recordings in the living room of my apartment, a big wide hexagon shaped room that could fairly comfortably house our collective sprawl.  I think the record certainly has a living room/home made vibe with just the right amount of room echo and plenty of natural blending of tones.  Musicians that I can remember right now are Kris Ablanalp guitars and various, Wesly Abplanalp slide guitar, David Sauter Upright Bass, Arsenio (Raw Thug) Zignoto percussion and various,  Natalie Thompson violin and voice, Shironda Davis Viola, Robert Maggert Guitar and Banjo, Spooky Casey baby shakers, and Kristopher Wunderlick the slickest trickiest guitarist. 
The album was released on Black Velvet Fuckere as a limited 3 LP set. How many copies were actually made?
I don’t know… maybe 500
Would you like to tell me about the music on the album…I mean was it totally a jam session or did you rehears this pieces before?
 … lots and lots of jams
Did you ever play live shows?
Many… most notable gigs were with Mike Rep and the Quotas, Sunburned Hand of the Man, and Dave Cloud and the Gospel of Power
What happened to Valley of Ashes?
Blew away
Let’s go back in the early 2000’s. You started your carrier in Magik Markers, right? Or were you in any bands before that?
Sure I was in a bunch of bands… The Uniforms, Gimp Knuckle, Rabbit Island, Charles Ives Youth, Creeping Jesus… etc… 
Magik Markers released so many albums, that’s just mind blowing. If a new listener would ask you, with which album should he start, what would you advise him?
Not sure… maybe Boss or the Split with Sic Alps or the new one… Isolated from Exterior time 2010.
Another project you are part of is called Spectre Folk. How did this start and what can you say about the background of your music created in Spectre Folk?
Spectre Folk started way back with the first solo recordings I’d done with a 4 track tape recorder back in the 90’s.  Discovering the hidden worlds that could be created by a microphone plugged into a fuzz pedal.. or the secret messages of short wave radios and mourning doves… how sounds can evoke feelings and song forms and then dissolve just as easily… stark poetics of time and place.
You released several albums and you have a brand new one out called The Blackest Medicine, Vol. II. Would you like to present the album?
Blackest Medicine II is the first document of the latest incarnation of Spectre Folk which is now a band featuring Peter Meehan on guitar, Steve Shelley on drums, and Aaron Mullan on bass guitar.  We’ve had the good fortune of doing a lot of playing and recording in a proffessional recording studio out in Hoboken NJ known as Echo Canyon West.  Black Meds II is the fruit of our initial labors and I think it’s a real barn burner.  The song Keep your teeth Clean came to me in a dream.  I thought it was a lost Beatles song from the Yellow Submarine album but I think our version came out way more like a Krautrock type of song.  The possibilities of the professional 70’s style recording studio are limitless and it was a pleasure to record there.  We’ve just finished a second record at Echo Canyon called “the Ancient Storm” which will appear on the Vampire Blues label.  It’s been described by some as a  “shoegazer country” record.  I’m quite proud of it as well.  
You have your own label called Arbitrary Signs and a great website, where people can find out what are you up to. Tell me what are some of your future plans as far as touring goes. I would like to see you in Europe, especially in my country, Slovenia! We have a great venue here called Metelkova and I bet you would like it here!
I would love to make it back to Slovenia.  I was just fortunate enough to play a couple of gigs in Barcelona and it was a real pleasure.  To me there is no greater gift as an artist than to travel to a foreign place and be confronted by things that are completely foreign and unusual.  It keeps the sense and the wits sharp and is a great tool and inspiration for creation.  I would love to play in Slovenia again.  We came through many years ago on a tour with the Magik Markers.  Who knows were the time goes?  It’s harder and harder in this day and age to make these things happen but I’m fighting for it. 
For the end of our interview, share a crazy story that happened to you while being involved with music.
Wow … now I’m on the spot… this could be a showstopper for me that would cause me to stop writing and contemplate on the meaning of crazy… and of music… and of transportation.  Music is transportation.  If you play enough music you will be transported to other cities, other states of conciousness, other levels of ecstacy and depravation.  I’ve played music in Iowa and had my shoes stollen and my gear infested with cockroaches.  I’ve been followed by cops in Lawrence Kansas and busted for double parking in San Diego.  I’ve scraped up fenders in Tallin and been to blood orgies in Norva,  I’ve experienced and controlled the consiousness heightening effects of a power chord on a room full of strangers in the back of a record store.  I’ve muttered random and incoherant numerology as a form of stage banter while tuning my guitar at the Stone, on the lower east side.  Time… place… motion…  I’ve eaten raw meat with Charlemagne Palestine in Lisbon.  I’ve made up songs about 400 hundred caucasion los angelinos jumping off a cliff in unison at a tea house in Charlotteville.  I’ve seen the Sagrada Familia breathe and evolve and manifest the eternal light of christmas on earth in the early hours of dawn on acid.   I don’t know if that’s crazy .. but I think it had something to do with the look in Neil Young’s eyes as he sang Cortez the Killer while staring out past 40,000 people at the mediterranean sea and beyond.  Get me there man that’s all I could ask for.     
Thanks Pete for your effort! Would you like to share anything else, perhaps?
I’m interested in hearing new bands for my label.  I like stuff that’s far freaking out!  Send your tapes too:
Pete Nolan
Arbitrary Signs
82 Newell st. Apt 2R
Brooklyn, NY 11222 USA
Interview made by Klemen Breznikar/2011
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