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 Stanczak.
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 before.
How about you presentation ... perhaps coloured vinyl or a single?
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 undertones.
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 forgotten?
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 mastered.
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 get-it?
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 guitar.
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 floor.
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 time.
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 events?
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 them.
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 material?
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