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Strange Forces interview with Matt Blanton, Nick Burroughs and Eli Kalaitzides

Lysergic, sometimes atonal, powerful and at once catchy, you might say there are strange forces at work in the music.  A confident blend of space and psychedelic rock, Strange Forces have been brewing up their own bad ass unique style for almost four years at this point.  While they had released several EPs in the past 2012 saw the release of their debut album, I’d Rather Listen To The Bloody Birds on 12” vinyl.  The edition of two-hundred copies sold out almost instantly at the source, I however was one of the lucky few that managed to score a copy.  As a result since the release of I’d Rather Listen To The Bloody Birds I have been chomping at the bit for new Strange Forces material but couldn’t find any info floating around online as to whether or not they were working on anything…  Lost in the trance like state which Strange Forces evokes I knew I had to talk to find an answer, I needed to know more about this band.  Hypnotic solos and a rhythm section built like a brick shit house keep the music from becoming plodding or repetitive, convalescing into a misty cloud of psychedelic hysteria.  Strange Forces has something special going on and I was going to get to the bottom of it.  So join me in a personal odyssey of discovery and obsession and make sure you check out all the amazing streaming music available on Strange Forces Bandcamp page at!

What’s the band’s lineup?  Is this your original lineup?

Matt:  Eli on drums, Nick on bass/vocals and I play Guitar, synth and vocals.  Sometimes Eli has to DJ in Ibiza so we get our mate Alain to play drums when a scheduling conflict like that happens.

Nick:  Yeah Eli is obsessed with that place.

Eli:  It’s true, diggin’ the vibe in DC10.

Are any of you in any other bands?  Have you released anything with any other bands?  If so can you tell us a little bit about it?

Matt:  I played Bass at one gig for An Emerald City.  Eli of course is a regular on the techno scene.

Nick:  Matt and I are starting this band called Silikon so we can play while Eli is in Ibiza.

Eli:  Yeah I travel the world as an electronic/DJ pioneer.  I play a lot in Ibiza; Ministry of Sounds, Space and Patchas.

Where are you originally from?

Matt:  We all grew up in Brisvegas, Australia the gambling capital of the southern hemisphere.

Eli:  My father and mother are from the old country though and I think that influences me.

Where is the band located now?  How would you describe the local music scene there?

Matt:  We formed the band in Berlin in late 2009 and we're still here.  The 8MM bar/label has probably carved out the closest thing to a scene in Berlin for lovers of the psychedelic variety, they always have the best bands in town.

Eli:  I, of course, do many techno parties Berlin.  Once in my hometown Mykanos, I ate a whole giraffe cooked while mixing.

Nick:  Ha-ha!  Eli, you told me it was just the leg?

Are you very involved with the local scene?  Has it played a large role in the history or evolution of Strange Forces?

Matt:  I have put on shows in the past.  It did help the band especially with gigs and finding similar, likeminded bands.  We also ran a bar for a bit.  It was great for a while and a bit of a hub for musicians but as we suffer from alcoholism, it was short lived.

Eli:  My brother also suffers from trouble with brothels and the bottle.

Nick:  I would say we are fairly involved.  We’ve been playing shows with Berlin based bands and musicians for four years now.  It’s hard to separate Strange Forces and Berlin.

When and how did you all meet?

Matt:  I met Nick when I was seven, I think he came round to my place and we played army.  I met Eli when we were ten; we played some b ball (basketball).

Eli:  I got my first DJ gig when I was fourteen.

What led you to form Strange Forces and when was that?

Matt:  It was the biggest in-flight incident in Qantas airways history in 2009.  I was travelling on QF72 from Singapore to Perth and the plane fell out of the sky twice.  The people sitting in front of me broke their necks but luckily my girlfriend and I were unharmed.  The pilot had to perform an emergency landing at a secret air force base in Exmouth, WA.  The next day in Perth, I won the lottery.  When I got back to Berlin I used the money to rent a studio and buy some equipment.

Eli:  I met them at a techno party.  I was playing live percussion with my electronics, they quite liked it and asked if I would want to be in psychedelic band that earns no money and I said yes.  I already have plenty of money from my DJing.  Now Greece is in the toilet.

What does the name Strange Forces mean or refer to?

Eli:  The forces, the strange ones.  They’re all strange.

Matt:  Maybe I got it from a book of the same name by Leopoldo Lugones.  Generally, it seems to fit as we like to explore things of a strange nature, and toilets.

Nick:  Yeah there’s heaps of shit going on all the time.  It’s pretty far out if you close your eyes and think about it.

I don’t like to label or classify music, how would you describe Strange Forces to our readers that haven’t heard you yet?

Eli:  Jamming toucans in a bowl of fruit loops three billies deep down by the creek.

Matt:  Someone once called it “dark surf”.  I like that.  I would describe it more as McKenna-esque or Buckminster-Fuller-Filler now though.

Nick:  I would call it Proto-Pronto or Cheapadelica Rock.

You have an incredibly interesting sound, a swirling mixture of sounds; who are some of your personal musical influences?  What about the band as a whole as opposed to personally?

Matt:  Thanks.  When we started the band I was influenced by rock’n’roll and drum’n’bass and I wanted to make the first ever live rock’n’roll drum’n’bass band.

Eli:  There are so many influences from so many different genres.  I think as a band our musical influences probably come from stuff like krautrock, space rock, garage, electronic music and techno.  I used to live in Italy and I would daydream about different things, one day I didn't eat until 4PM and I was super hungry.  When I finally got a pizza I started hearing Paul Van Dyke's We Are Alive in my head.  It was very great but I don't like his music.  That was back in the 2002.  Personally I find it pretty hard to list specific musical influences.

Can you tell us about Strange Forces songwriting process?  Is there a lot of exploratory jamming or does someone come to the rest of the band with an idea to build on and compose?

Matt:  Yeah, it’s very jam based to begin with and if we remember something in the next session we'll talk about structure, or not talk and use our telepathic powers to complete the track.  Other times we might start with a sample, like a beat or synth loop and see where it goes.

Eli:  I do a lot of different post production techniques with my laptop.  If you need a copy of Logic, Pro Tools or Ableton just e-mail me!

 © Michael Weiss
© Michael Weiss

Do you enjoy recording?  Some bands love it and others head for the hills screaming ha-ha!

Matt:  Yeah I think it can be heaps of fun when a track comes out at the end and its sounding ace, it’s a great feeling.  It's bloody time consuming though.  A lot of waiting around and looking at the same thing for a while, but that’s why we drink.

You released your self-titled EP in 2011 along with an ultra-limited cassette Spores limited to only one hundred pieces.  Which one was released first?

Matt:  The EP was first and we released it ourselves on our own label, Under Fire Is Born.

Let’s talk a little bit about the recording of those first two albums.  What does the name Spores mean?  Where were the albums recorded at?  Who recorded them?  What kind of equipment was used?  Who released them?

Matt:  From what I can gather, spores are like the seeds of fungi, they can exist in outer space and they come from other planets.  I love fungi.  I believe it can save the world if need be.  That cassette was a mixed bag of stuff we had done up till that point.  It was released by Jason in LA through his label, Living Tapes.  The EP was recorded with Ed East at Studio East in Berlin.  The other tracks we did our selves in our studio.

Nick:  Yeah Fungi rules.

There was a second edition of the Strange Forces EP that was released in Australia subsequent to the German pressing which includes several bonus tracks originally from the Spores cassette.  Are there any plans to make all of the material from the Spores cassette available in the future via physical release or digital formats?

Matt:  No plans to re-release that stuff, it's quite old and we'd rather look to the future.  Currently we have a load of recordings to release from a few sessions we've done this year and we are focusing on that.  There is definitely another LP’s worth of stuff, if not more, to get out there.  But we gotta mix it and we're lazy. 

Nick:  Yeah we’ve got music coming from all angles.  We might release it really slowly and get other people to continue to release when we’re dead, that way we can live forever.

Eli:  They’ll be released on the Greatest Hits album.

You released your debut full-length, I’d Rather Listen To The Bloody Birds last year.   How was recording that different that the Spores and EP sessions?  Where was it recorded?  Who recorded it?  What kind of equipment was used?

Matt:  It was recorded at One Million Mangos here in Berlin by our mate Alain.  It was a pretty similar recording process to our other stuff as we always record live.  Since the LP we’ve done all our recordings here at One Million Mangos as well.
Alain (sound engineer):  C414 on guitar amp, DIed the bass, and a mixture of SM57s and C414s on vocals.  Kick was D112, Snare SM57 top / SM58 bottom, OHs small diaphragm condensors, SM57 trash mic and a stereo pair of condensors as room mics.  They played together live but the amps were tracked in another room for better isolation.  We worked in REAPER and used a bunch of FX especially for vocals; Waves GTR was used a lot.  We ran a bunch of tracks through a Fostex R8-tape machine too.

I know the LP version of I’d Rather Listen To The Bloody Birds was limited to only 200 copies, do you currently have anything in print or available?  If so where’s the best place for our readers to purchase copies of your music?

Matt:  Yeah I think we will probably do another 100 copy run this year sometime.  In the meantime you can check out these select stores for a copy the first pressing as we don't have any left ourselves.  Rough Trade - London, SpaceHall – Kreuzberg and Berlin, - F’hain and Berlin, Permanent Records Chicago - US, Clearspot - Netherlands.
*also check out

Are there any plans for a follow-up album or any other music this year?

Matt:  Yeah we have a bunch of unreleased material that I would like to get out there in one form or another.  We are releasing a cassette this month or next with some remixes of songs from the LP by some friends, bands & DJs we dig.  We’re also putting some new jams on there.

What do you have planned as far as touring goes?

Matt:  We just finished a little mini-tour of Germany with High wolf that was awesome.  There are a couple of festivals coming up in Europe and we’re also looking to hit the states next year.

You have shared the stage with some amazing acts, who are some of your personal favorite acts that you’ve played with?

Matt:  I'm a big fan of High Wolf's music, Gnod are the best live band I've ever played with and one of the most fun to tour with and Mogwai, of course, were just epic!

Eli:  We played once and I think Ricardo Villalobos was playing also.  His is a very, very great man and I hope to play with him again.  As we say back home, Siccome la casa brucia, riscaldiamoci!*
*(roughly translated this means “Since the house is burning, let us warm ourselves)

Do you have any funny or interesting stories from live performances that you’d like to share with our readers?

Matt:  The first night we met Gnod, the fish man called an ambulance ‘cause he thought he was gonna die but I guess that's not that funny.  Plenty of things have happened, tour is fun.

Nick:  We drew a swastika on Eli’s head.  But that’s not funny either.

Eli:  Once we played in a shopping center food court in the Ukraine.

You’ve put out material via CD, cassette tape and vinyl at this point.  Do you have a favorite medium of release?

Matt:  Definitely vinyl.  I think it’s proven to be the best.

Do you have a music collection?  If so can you tell us a little bit about it?

Eli:  Yes, I like music very much and have tons of it.  I spend too much time on the internet adding to my digital music collection, but I’ve been buying more vinyl recently.  I don’t think you can beat vinyl. 

Matt:  I started to collect vinyl here in Berlin, random crap like old East German synth stuff but then I got bored of that.  I also have a large collection of rocks which I then started to concentrate on.

There are upsides and downsides to everything but digital music and distribution seems to be a real line in the sand for some people.  What’s your opinion on digital music and distribution?

Matt:  I dunno how it works.  Everything digital on our Bandcamp is free.  You just have to type zero in where it says “pay what you want”.  But yeah it’s a weird one, I think it should all be free but then again it would be nice to get a bit of cash so that we can pay all these fines we get just for living here in Germany.

Nick:  It should be free obviously.  People get pissed off sometimes but it’s usually ‘cause they are old.

Eli:  I say if you wanna sell it, sell it.  If you wanna give it away for free, do that.  It’ll probably end up as a free download somewhere anyway.  Which I think is great.  The pay what you want approach is probably a good way of doing the businesses these days, sharing new and old music is what it’s all about.

In hopes of keeping up with the never ceasing onslaught of amazing musicians out there, who should I be listening to from your local scene or area that I might not have heard of?

Matt:  Locally in Berlin, The Sun And Wolf + The History of Colour TV are rippin’ the most lids.

Eli:  Locally in Brisbane I’d probably say Dreamtime and Sleepwalks.

What about nationally and internationally?

Matt:  Other German bands I like at the moment are Kreidler and Solyst, I also still can't stop listening to Powderfinger. 

Nick:  Gotta love the finger.

Eli:  Night Terrors, High Wolf, Mari and Milani, Giuseppe Ottaviani, Manuel De La Mare, Stefano Noferino, Joseph Capriati, Mauro Picotto, Gabry Ponte, Cristian Marchi, Sasha Carassi, Luigi Madonna, Andrea Bertolini and Fabrizio Maruizi.

Is there anything that I missed or you’d like to talk about?

Nick:  Don't get me started.

Matt:  If Woody Allen is reading this; mate you can take a hike, I’m not giving you a cent!  And thanks Roman!

(2010)  Strange Forces – CDR001 – CD-R – Self-Released
(2011)  Strange Forces – Strange Forces EP – CD – Under Fire Is Born Records
(2011)  Strange Forces – Spores – Cassette Tape – Living Tapes (Limited to 100 copies)
(2012)  Strange Forces – Strange Forces – CD-R – New World Australia (second pressing with additional bonus tracks from Spores cassette release)
(2012)  Strange Forces – I’d Rather Listen To The Bloody Birds – 12” – Under Fire Is Born Records (Limited to 200 copies)

Interview made by Roman Rathert/2013
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