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Damin Eih, A.L.K. and Brother Clark interview with A.L.K and Brother Clark

January 10, 2013

Damin Eih, A.L.K. and Brother Clark interview with A.L.K and Brother Clark

Brother Clark in 1974.
This was the only known picture of “Damin Eih, A.L.K. and Brother
Clark” shot during the album recording (other than those on the back-cover
collage).
Forgotten jewel from the early 70’s for the very first time exposed. We are the first who found the members of the band and they shared the whole story behind their “Never Mind” LP.
Interview:
I was really happy
when you instantly responded with big “YES” to do the interview, Clark. I was
even more happy when you said, that also A.L.K. (Allen Katzner) is available
for an interview. So warm welcome to both of you. It’s a shame, Damin EIH (Dale
Miller) is nowhere to be found, but the important thing is that story about
your band and album will be told. May I suggest we start with questions about
your childhood and teen years. Where were you born and what can you tell us
about some early influences?
Brother Clark: Born 1953.
Had 4 years classical piano, then came the Beatles/Stones and that was it for
me. Became a guitar player in ‘64, had a crappy old Sears guitar that came with
the amp in the guitar case- not quite a Marshall stack. First band I formed was
DZG (1965) with fellow Robbinsdale Minnesota USA friends. Band was formed with
anyone who had an instrument.  My older
sister had tickets to see the Beatles in 1965 and because she was pissed at me
she brought my younger sister to the show instead of me – I still like my
younger sister better now for obvious reasons. Even then, Minneapolis had a
great Rock scene. In ’67 I saw two local bands that again amped up the juice,
The Litter and Jokers Wild. Both bands played original music and had excellent
psychedelic-raved guitar players,  Zippy
Caplan (Litter) and Lonnie Knight (Jokers Wild). That brought everything to a
new level – original music and lead guitarists. Once I saw them, it was
Hendrix, Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Roger McGuinn for me and those
influences haven’t stopped. In ‘69 I saw Damin Eih and ALK play (under their
real names) at a school event, knew who they were. Admired the fact that they
were doing complex vocal-oriented original music but we didn’t connect at that
point.  However, great guitar-driven
psychedelic-oriented bands who could sing three part harmonies always stuck in
my head (think Byrds Eight Miles High and Beatles) and that proved prophetic….
as did the effect of Vietnam war on all of us draft-aged males.
ALK: Born 1951, started
with piano lessons at 11 years old. 
Mostly dug sports but then my sister, 9 years older, bought an Elvis
album – Blue Hawaii.  That was it for me
too man, I wore that sucker out within 3 weeks. 
Then the Beatles hit and I’m hooked—I’m a Lennon freak!  Everybody was buying guitars, drums and
portable small organs.  Damin Eih (Dale)
lived one block north of me and we grew up together and became very close
friends.  Dale got a guitar and then it
was my turn.  I bought a black pearl
Ludwig 4 piece with hi-hat and two cymbals. 
You know damn well that was Ringo’s kit also.
Were you in any bands
before starting ‘Damin Eih, A.L.K. and Brother Clark’? Was there anything
released? Did you play any local shows? 
Brother Clark: From
67-on, I have always been in bands, still am today. Played parties and school
sock-hops back then. Nothing original recorded with those bands until 1971, I
still have recordings of the first song I wrote, circa 69, performed in 1971
with one of those bands, the Deke Rivers Band. 
As Never Mind listeners may have noticed, we were using whatever the
best local “substances” were that came through town and this also influenced
how the three of us got together.
ALK: Damin and I started
playing together immediately and anybody that would join in was welcome.  We ended up with drums, bass guitar and
organ.  We were all local Robbinsdale Jr.
High School guys.  We played at parties,
school functions, garages, basically anywhere we could haul our equipment to.
After Never Mind, though we were both done with bands.
So what was the scene
in your town? Any bands that influenced you, clubs…
Brother Clark: There were
so many good Minneapolis bands back then that I am not surprised that some of
them eventually broke through to recognition. By the late 60’s there were quite
a few rock clubs including one in Robbinsdale where we grew up called Someplace
Else (which I was too young to get into), as well as the University area coffee
houses that Dylan played at.  In the
early 70s local bands like the Youngsters (who spawned one of the leading
country songwriters of recent years) were playing around town, and the new wave
of bands like the Hypstrz, Curtiss A, various preludes to the Replacements and
Husker Du were playing at clubs like the Longhorn and the Uptown.  By the time the Longhorn opened I could
legally drink although I don’t recall that they checked ID much back then.  And, you can’t overestimate the watershed
club opening back then – the opening of The Depot in ’69, which is now known as
the legendary First Avenue.  Another key
factor was the vibrant recording and distribution scene even back then. There
were many local labels such as Twin Tone and phenomenal record stores such as
Oarfolkjokeopus (now Treehouse Records) 
and the Electric Fetus. Even back then those record stores would sell
local artist’s products- they still do today. 
When we released Never Mind the only store that would carry it though
was a long-defunct Minneapolis north-side record shop whose owner knew us.
ALK: It seemed that just
about everybody wanted to be cool and play. 
Being a year older and wiser than Brother Clark, I could go to that
place called Someplace Else, a non-alcohol local club for young kids to hang
out and listen to local talent.  I never
played there but could have.  The bands I
liked were the Byrds, Dylan, Moby Grape, Pacific Gas and Electric, Moody Blues,
Buffalo Springfield and all the British stuff that hit America.  Most of all worshiped the Beatles.  I went to as many local clubs as I could by
bus or someone’s car.
How did you got to
know each other and decided to start a band?
Brother Clark and ALK: We
were all Robbinsdale Minnesota boys, and as noted we were in bands and we knew
who the players were.  Through a mutual
friend, Brother Clark met ALK. Our first meeting was specifically to practice the
art of friendly substance enjoyment.  We
kept going on that path for a few months. Eventually we started jamming.
Brother Clark’s primary guitar band gig (which became Code 7) was ongoing at
that point. ALK had sold his drums and was dabbling in acoustic guitar and
writing original tunes.  So, we started
working on tunes, both of us playing acoustic, we figured out that we could
sing together. ALK mentioned that Damin Eih was in the Navy, having had to make
the difficult decision of enlisting to avoid getting drafted into the army and
ending up on the ground in Vietnam. We were all in the same boat and one of the
most exciting nights of the year was getting high and watching the draft
lottery numbers come up. After a few months of the two of us jamming, ALK
mentioned that he and Damin had been considering putting an album out based on
songs that Damin had already written. That kicked into gear. ALK knew that
Damin had recordings of the songs and somewhere along the line Damin sent an
acoustic solo 2-track recording of his concept for Never Mind to ALK.  When we popped that in the ten dollar Radio
Shack tape player we were shocked…. maybe not the right word.  It was the most ambitious set of original
songs from anyone local that we had ever heard. It reminded us of the Moody
Blues meet the Beatles, meet Led Zeppelin circa LZ III with the rich 12 string
sound. There was enough material there for more than one album. We needed to
form a band and play this. ALK took it as a challenge, he had been sort of
writing a few songs (including rough cuts of Thundermice) but this upped the
ante for him to get material together. Brother Clark wasn’t concerned about
where he fit in from a material standpoint, there was clearly enough good
material here, and he had his own “heavier” band going. ALK pushed to get the
recording project going. But how were we going to pull that off?  Damin was on the east coast locked into the
service for months, we didn’t have a bass player, we couldn’t play in local
clubs to get our shit together, we didn’t have money, we didn’t have a
following. It didn’t look promising.   
What was the concept
behind the band?
ALK: Damin Eih put it
together and I just came along and gave it my all my, talents that Damin knew
included pretty darn good vocal ability, drums and the surprise of guitar work
and songwriting as well. I was corresponding with Damin, trying to get him
fired up. We decided to stick to three piece. Damin had the concept album
pretty well baked –
Brother Clark: Right, the
band was formed to get this recording done, period. I agreed to play bass, even
though I hadn’t done that, didn’t own a bass, that didn’t matter.  After all. Jeff Beck Truth had Ronnie Wood
playing bass, I figured I could pull that off. The issue for ALK started to
become how to get any of his material onto the record, some politicking
started, with me in the middle. Not a bad problem to have though- too much
material.
Do you remember some
early “basement” sessions? How did they look like? Did you play your material
from the very start or?
  
ALK: Everything always
starts in someone’s basement, garage or a getting high party at someone’s
parent’s house. We grabbed the Damin demo tape and learned every song as fast
as we could, took a few weeks.  At the
same time, I worked on arranging and finishing up enough of my material,
including one Brother Clark helped write. 
We knew that we would have to fight to get material cooked into that
Damin Eih stew.  So, the start of a plan
to meet to actually get the three of us together somehow to rehearse was hatched.
We needed to get to Maryland to see if we had any chemistry as a threesome,
nail down songs, get vocal parts worked out, it all had to happen quickly. We
finally found a two week slot where Damin was off duty- we bought tickets and
hit the road.
Brother Clark: I bought a
bass and we were on the road for our first meeting a couple of months
later.  The sessions were in Damin’s
kitchen, three of us playing acoustic, no drums, I might have plugged the bass
into a stereo or something, can’t recall. 
We clicked right away. Within about a week, we had the album worked out,
every part. Turns out, we shared a mutual theory of everything, very
eastern-religion oriented, based on shared vibrations- literally what is now
known a string theory.  The whole album
from the “birth” song Tourniquet, to the play on words “reverse-birth” song
Re-(turnNaked)  that closes it out fell
into place, especially once we figured out how to work ALK’s songs into the
flow. Back to Minnesota ALK and I went- still didn’t know where to record, had
no label, didn’t matter, we were ready to go and we had the faith.
What can you tell us
about song writing? What inspired you the most? I don’t mean just as far as
music goes, but as far as life goes…
ALK: The drums were a
bitch to drag around and I was falling in love with Gordon Lightfoot.  I thought my word-smithing could be rather
good so off I went searching for the all-mighty acoustic guitar.  At least with that,  I could take it anywhere at any time.  I locked myself in a room and learned to play
then started writing goofy shit.  It
wasn’t until after the Never Mind album that the really good stuff came
naturally.  I wrote over 80 songs.  Songs about dreams, war, love, peace,
friends, family, and a troubled man that was going to have a hard future. I can
shed some light on Damin’s feelings about a lot of his songs and how he put
things together. I knew some of the women involved in Damin’s life and there is
a lot of that mixed in.  Damin was
heavily anti-war as we all were and still are, he was also very cynical.
Brother Clark: Well, ALK
snuck a couple of good ones into Never Mind. Much of Damin’s life view is
evident in some songs like Party Hats and Olive Spats. Damin wove in lost
loves, heroic myths such as Gone and pure psych such as Take Off Your Eyes. Mix
in that we all liked the same diversions and we pulled it together very
quickly.  ALK had started writing songs
from a much different viewpoint.  I at
least found him to be much more positive, he was married, had a child and was
writing from a different perspective than Damin. So, you get Thundermice.  ALK and I finished Marching Together shortly
after getting back to Minnesota from that trip. Next up was getting into the
studio and Damin had a few connections that made that happen.
“Never Mind” is the
title of your album and now I would like to go into details about it. Where did
you record it and how did you got signed up to Demelot Records?
ALK & Brother Clark:
We can only guess as to the genesis of Never Mind as a title, but again the
combination of eastern religion and cynicism over being shipped off to war,
screwing up Damin’s love life…This played out later too as Damin wasn’t
optimistic about where the album or the band was going to go.  Demelot came about as the rock arm of a small
local record company, Narthex Records that was focused to releasing religious
music. Tony, the engineer there wanted to branch out. Someone on Damin’s side
knew Tony, so we cut a deal to get the recording done and print t a few hundred
records, with most being designated as demo copies to be sent to radio stations
and labels.  We still have copies of two
reject letters we got from Columbia and a junky mass-distribution label in
Minnesota.
What were the
circumstances behind your album and what do you remember from recording and
producing this LP?
ALK: It went so
fast.  Low budget everything—cheap
microphones, drums, Teac reel-to-reel recorders with  a small mixing board.  I don’t know how the hell Damin got this
thing put together.  He was a genius, but
he always wanted and needed total control. Although Brother Clark and I had
been jamming together for several months, once Damin figured out that we could
actually pull it off we were running. Damin sent me an acoustic tape of the
songs he wanted and I picked a few of mine. Damin had worked up special effects
such as the album lead in and drone fade outs- he knew what he wanted.
Production was minimal, all done by the band. We had everything laid out in
advance. We trusted each other enough that we really didn’t get into critiquing
takes or anything like that.
  
Brother Clark: I put
together bass parts from the tape. We went out to the east coast to rehearse
and that was it. We walked into the studio and recorded the whole thing in 4
days.  Entire process from “We are a band
and we are going to do an album” was 11 weeks. Most songs were one or 2 takes
of rhythm section, no click tracks, come back and lay on background vocals and
leads- we just went for it.  Damin also
spent a lot of time recording his 12 string at half speed and then merging
those tracks back in at regular speed which accounts for the high-pitched
tinkling guitar sound on a lot of the songs. 
Before we recorded the album, we had never played any of the songs
together other than the three of us on acoustic guitars so it was about as
fresh as it gets. This was also the only time we played together as a band-
once and out.
What gear did you
guys use and what can you say about the cover artwork. It seems to me, that it
has a lot to do with music… Can you explain that to us?
ALK: My old drums were
gone so I borrowed a small set.  Tried to
get the right sound and pitch (cheap kit) and it could have been better.  The cover art work is also all Damin’s…. I
think that cover about sums up where Damin was at – lone wolf stoically
watching from his stone perch but part of the universe somewhere.
Brother Clark: The back
cover collage and text were contributed by a couple of Damins’ buddies. Gear:
Dale had an Epiphone 12 string, and borrowed a Gibson hollow body that he used
along with a FuzzFace on a few songs. I used a Hofner Beatle bass, my Guild D50
and Les Paul Junior. Amps were a Fender Bassman and a blonde Bandmaster.  Other instruments that snuck in included the
studio’s piano and other things like triangles that were lying around.
How many copies
Demelot Records were released and how did the distribution (if any) looked
like?
ALK: We struck out on
getting anywhere with labels. When we decided to lay back and see what
happened, we split the remaining copies up between the three of us. I think
Damin may have handed some of them out at Halloween just to get rid of them.
Brother Clark: 300 copies
were printed.  25 copies  went to an independent record store in
Minneapolis.  The rest were intended as
demo/promo copies. Almost all of my copies were given away or sold to people we
knew (other than much later when collectors started calling).  Damin may have launched his into the Ganges.
Damin’s Halloween  copies… now that would
have been a surprise in the treat bag.
I hope you don’t mind
if I ask you to comment each song.
A1 Tourniquet
Brother Clark: Damin’s
take on the continuity of life with birth represented as the fetuses choice to
become part of the “living realm” by removing the tourniquet that separates us
from other realms.
A2 Sing a Different Song
ALK: Break up of a Damin
relationship with his first girl Kathy, with 
overtones of time for a change in all things most of all the war.
A3 Take Off Your Eyes
ALK: Another Damin
relationship song fueled by shared substances.
A4 Soft Margins
Brother Clark: Shared
substances unlocking truth.
A5 Thundermice:
ALK: I was sitting on a
picnic table at Lake Independence in Minnesota with my Martin D35 sunburst
beauty.  A storm was coming in and I
looked up and it came out in seconds. 
The whole bowling in the sky’s deal came from the sound of a super hard
strike at the Chalet bowling alley in Robbinsdale where I would hang out and
play pinball all day when I was in Jr. high school.  The harmonies were supposed to sound
heavenly.  Well that’s all folks, you
can’t make this kind of shit up:
Brother Clark: ALK’s
best. We needed a bridge between the pieces of this one. Damin couldn’t stitch
together the parts in a way that satisfied him, so I grabbed my Les Paul and
laid down the lead guitar part.
A6 Monday Morning Prayer
ALK & Brother Clark:
Simple A cappella and clearly pissed off that morning. Who the hell knows.
B1 Gone
ALK: This is one of my
favorite 12-string songs ever.  Maybe
California Dream’n intro and Lightfoot’s Carefree Highway are right there
also.  Brother Clark: Zeppelin-influenced
acoustic English ballad with Moody Blues finish
B2 Marching Together
ALK: After Vietnam war
this was my way of saying let’s get it together.  Brother Clark threw in the chorus.
B3 Kathryn at Night
ALK: Here comes Damin’s
great and jealous relationship with Kathy – disintegration in front of your
eyes.
B4 Party Hats & Olive
Spats
ALK: Anti-war, anti-hate
60’s special. This mother f**k’r starts innocent and then violently knocks you
out.  Should have been a great hit in a
small club, so we thought.
B5 Return Naked
ALK: Damin Eih at it
again.  Just can’t get enough wild stuff,
he’s a great tinkerer. Brother Clark: The opening song played almost note for
note in reverse as Damin returns to the Void.
Was this a conceptual
album by your meanings?
ALK: All Damin.  I was lucky to get songs on it. Brother
Clark: Well, almost all Damin. Absolutely conceptual. Once we figured out where
to pop Thundermice into the mix it was ready. Sgt Peppers meets the Moody
Blues.
Why the title “Never
Mind” and can you tell me about the names you are using?
ALK: Damin knew he was
ahead of his time, or at least he wasn’t lining up with anyone’s time.
Brother Clark: The title
was Damin’s multi-nuance summary of his life at the time. I have no idea where
Damin and ALK came up with “Brother” Clark. 
Must have sounded right?
The music is really
interesting from psychedelic folk to more progressive stuff. It’s a kind of
mixture and it really is an intensive listening. I really dig the multi-layered
acoustic guitars and heavy use of cymbals. Where from have all this influences
came to connect so many different elements of music. What have you had in mind
when it comes to listening? What should listeners experience?
ALK: Just look past the
mistakes and rough breaks and really dig it. I think that the sound came about
as a compromise of three different starting points. Damin was angling toward a
very acoustic-oriented sound and you couldn’t get that 12 string out of his
hands. I pushed him forward into electric mode once the drums kicked in but
remember until we were in the studio The other guys had no idea what I was up
to.
Brother Clark: I pushed
further with my psychedelic guitar hero worship to add an even more electric
sheen. ALK has a rare taste filter built in. He didn’t want to step on Damin’s
acoustic vibe in certain parts, but we wanted to lay in a sonic shimmer that
had more balls.  Focus was always first
on lyrics, harmonies and song structure. The instruments had to wrap around
that.  Listening? We tried to leave
hidden things to be discovered. We knew it would take a while to wade through
that water. We all like music with dynamic range, where you have to be ready to
use your volume knob to get the right experience.  Don’t hear that approach much anymore at
least in rock.
Did you do any
concerts? 
ALK: We didn’t know what
to expect, In my early years I played with guys that were 4 to 5 years
older.  I was considered to be a good
drummer early on…  we never played
anywhere as this band. Damin was always chasing the quick fix and he was so
depressed when the labels bounced us right away that he disappeared.
There was also a
single released a year later called Party Hats and OliveSpats/Tourniquet. What
can you tell me about this?
ALK & Brother Clark:
Just different cuts of the same songs from the album mix. Actually everything
was printed at the same time as the album. The single was a second shot at
trying to get air play, the singles just showed up around town later.
NeverMind2 – Damin Eih
from collage (red with beard + Never Mind title)
Does anything else
exist from the band? Any unheard recordings?
ALK & Brother
Clark:  Maybe, but good luck finding any
of it.
Brother Clark: There were
two half-done songs that were rehearsed and didn’t make it into the studio. One
of them was on Damin’s demo tape. One was a semi-finished ALK composition where
the only copy is on a solo practice tape I have. The first one, called
“Bonfire”, was part of a full orchestral symphony Damin wrote called “Voyage
Bizzaria”.  He had me go through his
hand- written sheet music for all the instruments, the whole nine yards. I
should have taken a copy. I recently finished writing and arranging Bonfire and
ALK’S start on the second one, “Puffy Clouds”. But with no Damin in sight, I
don’t know if there is anything else anyone will hear.  I am recording both of them for future
release but these versions won’t be from the whole band, just layers on top of
the original recordings- we shall see. 
ALK and I have to think about that. For kicks I did a juiced up Take off
your Eyes with my current band, you can download it at
http://www.myspace.com/seedymusic.
What happened next to
the band? When and why did you disbanded and what were you doing after that?
ALK: a no-hit wonder,
other than Damin, we hadn’t really meant it to go anywhere.
Brother Clark: Damin went
chasing the next dream he lived in, whereabouts unknown, rumors abound. I went
back to my other music projects, finished school.
What currently
occupies your life?
ALK: I have a large
property on a river in Wisconsin.  Be
retiring soon and look forward to more golf and outdoor activities.  I’m also going to be kicking tires in Arizona
this winter and looking for a new place to live.  My job as a sales executive for a steel
company has burned me out.
Brother Clark: Family
first. Also about to release 5th album from DYRC and Code 7, my other music
projects-kept them going all these years. 
Play a few shows live and sneak in a couple of tracks from Never Mind
every time. Also run an internet-based software business.  See 10+ rock shows a month, mostly at First
Avenue in Minneapolis. Younger crowd in clubs rightfully starting to act like
we are too old to be still into it and having fun- which has it’s odd points
considering many of the bands they are watching are nearly as old as we are.
Maybe I’ll start telling them I’m just a janitor doing clean-up.
Would you like to highlight
any specific moments, that happened in the band and you love/hate to remember.
ALK: I miss Damin a lot!!
Brother Clark is a super guy.  I would
give anything for the 3 of us to lock ourselves away for a year or two and see
what would happen.  At almost 62 years of
age my voice isn’t there.  Oh well, good
ole O.L.D.
Brother Clark: Short,
quick, special, pure joy and won’t happen again at least in this realm.
Can you look back and
tell us how was it living in late 60’s and 70’s?
ALK: It doesn’t get any
better.  The fresh music back then will
never, never ever happen again. Brother Clark: Everything was tumultuous, but
youth was smart and going in a much better and more coherent direction than the
USA is going now. The music was incomparable- we were very fortunate be alive
during those times.  Glad that we lived
in a place and time that was a big part of the music scene and fostered a vibe
that still exists.
Thank you both for
taking your time. Would you like to send a message to It’s Psychedelic Baby
readers?
ALK & Brother Clark: Thanks to all of
you for keeping that era alive through your love of music.  Keep digging, with the internet and folks
like It’s Psychedelic Baby at work there will always be more surprises. 
You got it baby (Never
Mind) A.L.K, Brother Clark & channeling Damin Eih…..
Brother Clark and Code7
(one of my current bands, me at center playing les paul) from sometime before
2010 playing at First Avenue in Minneapolis.
Interview made by Klemen
Breznikar/2013
© Copyright
http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2013
4 Comments
  1. Patrick the Lama

    Outstanding work, great to finally get to hear the story behind this "mystery" LP. Great album, sounds like nothing else. Are the band members aware of the two "reissues" (bootlegs)? One from Europe in the 1990s, one from the US in the early 2000s. Both very limited releases of course.

    Thanks Klemen & band!

  2. Klemen Breznikar

    Thank you, Patrick.
    I will need to talk with them regarding bootlegs. I sure hope they will be interested in doing a proper legitimate reissue in the near future.

  3. Jack Dee

    Huge thanks for doing this. I've been fascinated and starving for an expose since first hearing the LP! You guys made one of the truly great lost LPs of the 1970s! Take off your eyes... lie down in your head!

  4. kosmikino

    Many thanks for such a fascinating interview, it was great to finally put a context to some of the most experimental and original early seventies psychedelic music conceived by (wo)man or machine.

    I am from England and it is thanks to the internet and sites like yours that I have discovered so much great music that would have otherwise fallen forever down the musical memory hole.

    One thing I am slightly confused about is the question over the legitimacy of the reissues. I know there has been a number of bootlegs but I thought the version I had, the 2009 CD (also issued on vinyl) released on Nero's Neptune, the sub-label of Treehouse Records in Minneapolis was an official reissue.

    Is this not the case?

    Thanks again for such a rewarding interview, your efforts really are appreciated.

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