It’s almost Halloween, so here’s an Interview treat with Christian Bland of The Black Angels

October 22, 2012

It’s almost Halloween, so here’s an Interview treat with Christian Bland of The Black Angels


Thanks for taking the time to sit down with me.  If you don’t mind, I’d like to start off with
your visual arts.  The Black Angels are
one of the few bands who’ve kept the poster spirit alive, drawing a direct line
to the Psychedelic 60’s.  Did you decide
to embrace posters from the get-go, or has this been an ongoing process?
I’ve always been interested in
old advertisements, movie posters, war propaganda posters, and just general
design from the 50’s & 60’s. I studied graphic design & advertising at
Florida State University and was attracted to the simple, mind bending,
sub-conscious controlling art from the 60’s. I love everything from Wes
Wilson’s Fillmore posters, to the optical art of Bridget Riley & Julian
I heard through the grapevine that you’re just finishing up the new
album at Sonic Ranch … how’d the session go?
It went great. We loved it out
in Tornillo. It was perfect to get away from the city into the west Texas
desert, for the songs that we recorded. We worked with John Congleton who lives
in Dallas. So after Sonic Ranch, we went to his place, Elmwood Recording, to
mix the album. We’re hoping to have it out early next year. 
Did anything unexpected or out of the blue surface that you weren’t
expecting?  Or perhaps head-to-wall
moments [smiling]?
It poured rain the fourth day we were recording, which was weird being
out in the desert. Then the power went out, and the entire studio started
flooding, so we had to get towels and buckets and rush to get the water out of
the studio as quickly as we could. They’d never experienced that type of rain
How about you presentation … perhaps coloured vinyl or a single?
Perhaps, perhaps.
What was that “Ah-Ha” moment that resonated for you, drawing you into
the psychedelic web?  And give us a taste
of your musical heroes please.
My Dad bought the Sgt. Peppers
album when it came out in 1967, and I discovered it in his collection 20 years
later and fell in love with it. I would listen to it over and over and over,
while staring at the cover art, picking out all the different faces.  I didn’t learn how to play the guitar until I
was 19. One summer afternoon with nothing to do in Georgia, where my parents
had recently moved, I went to the local library and discovered The Piper at the
Gates of Dawn on CD. I had no interest in Pink Floyd, until I discovered their
first album was recorded at Abbey Road Studios next door to the Beatles as they
recorded Sgt. Peppers, and that they would visit each others studios, and push
to see who could be more mind bending. Then I fell in love with Syd Barrett’s
style, so I started strumming along and figuring out the tunes. 
Most people feel that psychedelic music is an extension of what they can
ingest, and while that can certainly enhance the experience, would you suggest
that psych music in and of itself can be the experience?
Yes, definitely. To fathom hell
or soar angelic, just take a pinch of psychedelic.  – Humphrey Osmond
People’ve staggered me, saying that Black Angels represent the darker
side of psych music, while I point to numbers like “Boat Song,” “Melanie’s
Melody, “True Believers” and many others, that have a bright shiny feeling …
harking back images of The Hollies, and even The Zombies.
I think they all have dark
I realize that you’ve been asked to-death about Roky Erickson, I’m
perhaps one of the few people who saw him live back in the 60’s, where his
shows were far less than successful. 
While working with him, have you found him more driven to succeed at
this stage of his career?
I can tell he loves to play
music. I think it’s what keeps him going. I’d love to see a “You’re Gonna
Miss Me II” documentary. A lot has happened since the documentary came out
in 2005.
Why do you think 13th Floor co-founder Tommy Hall seems to have been
He’s become reclusive, and sadly
he disowns his work with the 13th Floor Elevators as immature. He’s been in a
constant struggle since the days of the Elevators to figure out the meaning of
existence. I hope he realizes the importance of his lyrics. They changed my
life, and are one of the reasons The Black Angels exist. Hopefully he’s never
forgotten. He’s one of the forefathers of psychedelic rock n’ roll.
Is there something about the heat in Texas that inspires such complete
dedication to the music, or is it as Janis Joplin said, “There’s just nothing
else to do here.”
Definitely the heat, but I think
it’s also about the dirt.
Have you got the Psych Festival thing down now, or is it still a full
time daunting task?

It’s grown every year since it
started in 2008 and it’s become a year round job. Our partners Rob Fitzpatrick
& James Oswald help to oversee things while Alex and I are tending to Black
Angel duties.
The whole concept reminds me of the Vulcan Gas Company presentations …
were you inspired by that venue in anyway?
That was the main inspiration
for the entire festival. The first year we had it in a big red barn that we
were hoping to turn into a modern day Vulcan Gas Co., but instead, we got shut
down the next day. So we’ve been rotating venues every year since then, but we
hope to establish a permanent place as soon as we can. From the beginning, our
vision was to do it in a huge field by a river w/ camping.
I imagine with its success, you have trouble limiting the bands who get
invited to preform?
The festival has expanded to
three days, plus pre-parties, and after parties, so we usually deal with 65+
bands every year.
How about long range visions for the Psych Fest, perhaps taking it on
the road as was done on the Festival Express back in 1970?
We’ve started the process of
talking about having the festival in Europe and perhaps Australia. One day we
might even have the ‘Psychedelic Summer’ tour series drive around the USA.
Is recording a lengthy process for you, or have you got things pretty
well mapped out before you set foot in the studio?
Every album has been pretty much
mapped out before we enter the studio, but each albums process has been very
different. We started writing the new one in January 2012 and worked on it
until we had 30 songs in June. Then we chose our favorite 16 and started honing
in on them in July. In August & September we recorded and mixed the album.
Now we just need to figure out which songs will be on the album and get it
Do you know, or have you learned when a song is finished?
Yeah, I think it naturally
happens. I don’t ever like to force anything. We just channel the music and let
it take us where it wants to go.
Are you still dedicated to your songs, or are there tracks you’d like to
revisit, and perhaps present from a different vantage point?
I’m pleased with the way our
recordings have turned out. I’d be into the idea of having someone remix our
songs. Like Sonic Boom or Psychic Ills. When we play live, the songs aren’t
always exactly like the recordings. It’s fun to expand and try new ideas live.
Is being accessible important, or are you playing to the folks you
I think both avenues are
important. We try to follow The Beatles lead. Hopefully our music becomes the
type of music to emulate.
What’s on your turntable right now?
And what are you reading?
“The Eve of Saint Venus”  by
Anthony Burgess
I remember spending a day in Pere Lachaise Cemetery with The Black
Angels on my iPod, it was all disturbingly wonderful.  Though truth be told, you all don’t seem as
obsessively dark as say “First Vietnam War” might suggest.
That’s perfect. I live next door
to the Texas State Cemetery. I love to go there and wander around and play my
Would you please take a moment and discuss the concept of The
Reverberation Appreciation Society?
It’s the group of four who run
Austin Psych Fest (Robert Fitzpatrick, James Oswald, Alex Maas, & Christian
Bland) It’s also our record label as of 2010. This November we’ll be releasing
our ninth record, Indian Jewelry’s – Peel It.
Give us a taste of your electronics and equipment … I’ve actually seen
guys craning their necks and taking notes regarding what’s laid out on the
Fulltone tube tape echo, v846
vox wah, dallas arbiter fuzz face, ibanez turbo tube screamer, fender twin
reverb ’65, and a 340 Rickenbacker … 
Is it difficult to balance the work you do with other bands, given that
The Black Angels is your family band?
Sometimes, but if I’m not doing Black Angel stuff then the Revelators or
UFO Club fills my time. I feel like if I’m not recording  or designing something, then I’m wasting my
I grew up with what we called Progressive Radio back in the 60’s … do
you find the lack of radio and other airwaves to be a hinderance, or have you
found ways of working around that, [laughing] to bring light to the masses?
The radio’s sick today. I think
it needs a Treatment. We’ve figured out alternate routes. The internet has been
an amazing tool for us. Early on, MySpace was a huge contributor in helping us
spread our music and set up tours across the US.
What’s it like presenting so many emotions so openly?  And have you ever revealed anything you wish
you could take back?
I think all humans share the
same emotions, so hopefully people can connect. I guess we try to play for open
minded people.
I believe you’ve only done it a couple of times before, but have you
given any thought to more full album shows? 
And let me follow that up wondering what the response has been to those
Yeah, I think its fun to play
albums all the way through. We usually do it for our album release shows in
Austin. I’m sure in the future we’ll probably do it again.  People have seemed to have responded well to
Halloween’s just around the corner, might The Black Angels be haunting
any venues you’d like to mention, perhaps surprising us with some of the new
This’ll be the first Halloween
we aren’t in several years, so we’ll get to cause extra mischief this year. Our
next show in Austin is at Fun Fun Fun Fest on November 3rd. Then we’re off to
Australia for the Harvest Festival Nov. 9th.
Thanks for taking the time … is there anything you’d like to say that
I haven’t covered?  Anyone you want to
give a shout to?
Shout out to Holy Wave, The Cosmonauts, and The Night Beats.
Interview made by Jenell Kesler / 2012
© Copyright
http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com / 2012
  1. Reverb Adrenaline

    We flew to Austin for Psych Fest this year and were not disappointed at all. UFO club does a great job. The Black Angels are a huge influence on our music!!

  2. Faizan Amir

    Interesting interview

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