Axis: Sova interview with Brett Sova

October 14, 2013

Axis: Sova interview with Brett Sova

© Jeremiah Chiu
Every time I listen to an Axis: Sova record
I end up on the edge of my seat trying to figure it out.  The countless influences intertwine,
undulating and bubbling under a surface of fuzzed our guitars and hazy
drum-machine percussion.  Gnarled
six-string solos swirl up from the dense cloud of sound every once in a while,
snatching the listener from their chair and launching them into a cosmic ether
of noise and fuzz.  There’s something
here for everyone with smashing rollicks like, “Past The Edge” and toe-tapping
pop melodies like “Raising Hell”, you name it and Axis: Sova probably does a little.  This isn’t to imply that Sova is a
Renaissance man more talented at doing many things than being particularly good
at one which is just about as far from the case as you could get.  I simply mean to imply that nearly any
listener capable of keeping an open mind for more than ten minutes can probably
find something that they will love.  It’s
not every day you hear a band as brashly confrontational as Axis: Sova and it’s
even less often when you find one that is as equally rooted in traditional
psychedelic music.  Truly a one-man army
the mastermind behind Axis: Sova, Brett Sova, sat down and waxed intellectual
about just where’s he’s been, how he got there and where’s he’d headed from
this point.  As always check out the link
below for some killer tunes while you read the article, so without further ado
I give you; Axis: Sova…
Listen while you read:

What’s the band’s lineup?  Is this
your original lineup or have you gone through some changes since Axis: Sova
Sova is one person; Brett Sova. 
No lineup changes, as of yet.
© Christen Carter
Are you in any other bands at this point?  Have you released anything with anyone
else?  If so can you tell us about it?
I’ve just started a band called Teachers Pet with Jeremiah Chiu, a
former member of Icy Demons and current member of Chandeliers, who also
performs solo as Deep Sleep.  Teachers
Pet is Chiu on drums and sequencer with me on guitar.  Additionally, I used to lead a band called
Mass Shivers a few years back, which has been aptly described as psychedelic
classic rock and released several things. 
I also recently spent a couple years playing bass and guitar with
Chicago electronic junkies, Chandeliers and contributed to their latest record,
Founding Fathers.
Where are you originally from?
Columbus, Ohio.
Where your households musical growing up?  Where your parents or any of your relatives
musicians or heavily interested in music?
Sure, lots of music in the house growing up.  My mom played piano in the house and there
was plenty of Stones and Beach Boys, with a lot of Mozart, Beethoven, Bach and
Barber thrown in. 
How did you first become introduced to music?  When did you decide that you wanted to start
writing/making your own music?
Saw my first Beach Boys concert when I was eleven months old.  They played at the Columbus Zoo.  But it was around the time of seeing Guns N
Roses and Metallica as an eleven-year-old when it was like, “do it”.  Those years, hearing all that classic rock
for the first time, it’s really so amazing the first time you hear it.  Sabbath, Zeppelin.  As a young person all you want to do is
figure out how to harness that same power and energy.  Got my first guitar in sixth-grade, sang in
school choir, standard.  Grunge and
whatnot lead to discovering punk; Black Flag, Dead Boys, Misfits, The Birthday
Party, Fugazi, The Make Up and countless others a couple years later.  All that stuff conceptually made the guitar
easier to understand.  Any guitar players
starting out can learn all the basics by listening to the Misfits.  Everything becomes simplified, not to mention
darker, heavier.  Plus, several of my
friends started playing and it helped learning that way.  I started playing in bands when I was fifteen,
as a singer though, not a guitar player. 
We used to play punk clubs in Columbus, like Bernie’s and Little
Brother’s.  The SST catalog was so huge
for us, The Decline of Western Civilization movie, the first one, and then of
course The Stooges.  Ron Ashton,
primarily, for vibe, but James Williamson had some massively killer riffs;
What exactly led to the formation of Axis: Sova and when was that?
In the summer of 2009, as Mass Shivers was coming to an end, a 90’s era
Chicago band, and participant in first-wave Drag City Records, called Mantis
was setting up their reunion show and asked if I’d do a solo guitar set to
open.  Seemed like a rad idea, and with
my band dissolving I’d been working on some solo freak outs anyway.  So timing-wise, it was perfect but then a
name became essential.  It was my summer
of returning to Axis: Bold As Love again and again, I was actually already in
the mindset of working on music alone without anyone else’s input and I wanted
it to be kind of out there as a concept. 
You get the picture, and hence the name. 
The show itself was brief but intense. 
I played one long massive solo, the impetus for the title track from
Weight Of A Color.  It went over well,
better than I thought it would, and when the other members of Mass Shivers were
unable to do a show later that fall opening for Blues Control, Axis: Sova
stepped in and had its second gig.  From
there, it was all Axis, all the time. 
The progression was natural and liberating.
Where is the band currently located?
Chicago, Illinois.
How would you describe the local music scene there?
The scene here is extremely deep, extremely talented, and thick with
ideas, collaborations and competition.
Are you very involved with the local music scene?
Has it played a large role, in the history, sound or evolution of Axis:
It’s impossible to dismiss the influence of Chicago.  Friends and their bands, people I’ve played
with over the years, the people coming in and out of Shape Shoppe, a warehouse
collective of people making music and art in Chicago’s south loop, where I
share space, in particular.  At the same
time, sonically I feel kinda linked with the scene happening in Philadelphia
right now.  With Birds of Maya, Purling
Hiss who I met them a couple years ago, having set up a Chicago show for Birds
of Maya, Spacin’ and ex-phillies Blues Control having a big influence as
well.  Richie Records is based there and
they’re the best.  That said, I tend to
look outside of things, beyond what’s directly in front of me and have never
really felt it wise for anyone to hitch their wagon to one place or time.
Let’s talk about Axis: Sova’s songwriting process.  Do you come in with a near complete idea and
work on composition or is there a lot of collaborative exchange and jamming?
Most songs do come out of jamming, eventually getting more and more
composed over a riff or chord progression that gets stuck in the fingers, and
stuck in the mind.
© Carlos Torres
What about the recording process? 
Do you do a lot of preparatory work before you head into the studio to
record or do you play it more off the cuff?
It’s a mixture of both.  I tend to
have a fairly solid idea of how a song should sound and plan for how to achieve
that, loosely, before recording.  But
accidents or unexpected sounds when recording tend to be the things that
provide the liveliest and often most memorable aspect of a song.  Yeah, things that come off the cuff.  It’s particularly like this when your whole
idea of recording is based around overdubbing infinitely bent guitar solos ’til
you foolishly feel you’ve outdone yourself.
Tell me a little bit about your first single, I Feel Like Laying Low b/w
Dopamine Boomerang.  How did that release
come about?  Were you happy with the way
the recordings turned out and everything? 
Do you have any memories about recording it you’d like to share with our
I just wanted to get something out there, get a recording together.  Nothing really exists until it’s been recorded.  The A-side is a jam I’d been hacking at for a
while, the verse being kind of a raga riff without the hang-ups, and the B-side
was a loop I’d manipulated live while recording to 4-track, then added a guitar
lead and some djembe for color. 
Coincidentally, “Dopamine Boomerang” is the only Axis: Sova song to date
that has percussion but no drum machine. 
Everything else drum-wise is done using a Roland TR-66 Rhythm Arranger,
a primitive drum machine from the early 80’s with only twenty-six presets that I
run through some junk.  It’s very
unsophisticated, but totally effective.  
Where were I Feel Like Laying Low and Dopamine Boomerang recorded?  When were they recorded?  Who recorded them?  What kind of equipment was used?
“I Feel Like Laying Low” was the first song I recorded to my, at the
time, recently purchased Tascam 488 8-track cassette machine.  I’ve recorded every song that way ever since,
and always do it in the live room at Shape Shoppe.  It’s a killer little studio.
Was I Feel Like Laying Low a limited release?  Who put it out?  When was that released?
It was a small run of a few hundred, and I put it out myself under the
label name Licking River I used to release a few of the Mass Shivers items in
You followed that up with your Weight Of A Color LP on Kill Shaman
Records which is when I initially heard you as Kill Shaman is one of the best
independent record labels out there, I love Bipolar Bear and the recently
reissued Reverse Shark Attack album by Ty Segall and Mikal Cronin.  How’d you originally get hooked up with Kill
Julian from Kill Shaman e-mailed me saying he was stoked on the single,
which he’d probably heard on the now defunct web-site Altered Zones.  They featured “Laying Low”, I think.  I was already working on Weight Of A Color,
so when it was finished I sent it to them. 
Luckily for me, it was apparently just good enough for them to release!  Those guys have “high” standards…
What are your memories of recording that Weight Of A Color album?  Did you approach writing or recording it very
differently than your previous single?
Naw, it’s pretty much been the same. 
The two most memorable aspects of recording the album include a) extreme
pain.  Mixing the song “Raising Hell” was
a real fucking terror and still doesn’t sound like it does in my head.  And b) extreme joy, which occurred when I
nailed the title track “Weight of A Color” in one take.
Where was Weight Of A Color recorded? 
Who recorded it?  When was it
recorded?  What kind of equipment was
Same as before, but recorded during 2011.  One thing I tried to do on that record was
get a tone on the acoustic guitars that was as rough and warbley as Keith
Richards’ on Beggar’s Banquet so it was mic’d pretty crudely and then amplified
through this ’67 Super Reverb I have that gets incredibly distorted at high
volumes, which was mic’d and then sent to the tape machine.
Following Weight Of A Color you’ve released a new single this year Past
The Edge b/w Grading With A Curve.  Was
the recording of this single much different than your previous single or the
Naw, pretty similar, except that “Past The Edge” was actually supposed
to be on Weight of A Color but didn’t make the cut at the time, due to the
state it was in.  The way I’d done it
originally just felt weak and not quite up to snuff.  I wasn’t sure when I’d ever figure out how to
fix it and kind of just put it on the shelf. 
Then like a year later, in the middle of a solo road trip through
Indiana on the way back to Chi-town, wherein I spent the entire drive listening
to nothing but Hawkwind, some kind of synaptic surge ran through my head and
everything about what “Past The Edge” was supposed to be became totally clear.  When I hit Chicago, I went straight into the
studio, stripped the flesh off that fucker and reconstructed it into the beast
you hear on the record.  Apparently
listening to five straight hours of Doremi Faso Latido and In Search of Space
back to back puts you in a certain zone… 
The B-side, “Grading On A Curve” is all about traversing the difficult
landscapes provided by Mercury going into retrograde.  Finding a floating, stable raft amidst the
terror…  But that song, much differently
than “Past The Edge”, was recorded in just one session and made the cut on
Who put that out?
Richie Records/TestosterTunes, who currently make waves, and cash hand
over fist, as the finest label in America’s seedy rock underbelly today.
There was mention of a possible cassingle release on the WordPress page
a few months back, is there any news no that? 
I know you’ve also been working on a follow-up full-length.  How’s that going?  Are there any plans for any upcoming
There are numerous recordings in various half-completed stages that I
hope to finish in the coming month or two, a full-length for sure, possibly a
separate cassette of jams if I can do it right. 
If any of them are any good, which they will be, then they’ll see the
light of day as soon as they’re fat and ready.
Has Axis: Sova released any music we haven’t talk about yet?
Where’s the best place for our readers to get copies of your album and
singles here in the U.S.?
Well, don’t try going to the supermarket or digging in your
backyard.  Start with purchasing them
direct from the labels, from their websites or whatever.  Or possibly even better, go in a real live,
brick and mortar record store and get them there.  These labels are legit, they have fancy
distribution, you should be able to find all Axis: Sova products with
ease.  And while live human interaction
seems to be a relic of the past for many, who knows what other freaky shit
you’ll be hipped to by letting go of your fear and conversing with a
record-store clerk.
With the insane international postage rate increases where’s the best
place for our international and overseas readers to purchase copies?
Hrm, probably the same types of places U.S. based folks would too,
either record stores or direct from the labels. 
Someone should write a letter to the USPS about all this, it’s sure to
do a lot of good, ha.…
What do you have planned as far as touring goes for the rest of the
Most immediately doing a gig opening for Ty Segall (excellent local
flavors Running are also on the bill) in Chicago at the end of the month.  Then touring back to the east coast in
November or maybe just staying in the Midwest. 
Actually, thanks for the reminder, I need to figure that shit out!
© Chinn Wang
Where’s the best place for people to keep up on the latest news like
upcoming album releases and shows at?
The web site you mentioned, http://lickingriver.wordpress.com/.  Ground zero for Axis: Sova stuff.
What are Axis: Sova’s goals for 2013? 
Is there anything that you would like to, or have, achieved or
For the rest of the year, it’s all about finishing another LP.  Plus maybe surfing again.  So far, the tour with Purling Hiss was epic
and the 7″ with Richie feels fucking alright.  Recently, I played as part of a huge ensemble
of Chicago heads that performed Terry Riley’s epic piece, In C.  That ruled.
I’ve got a serious addiction to physical music, it’s inescapable for
me.  Having something to hold in my
hands, artwork to look at and liner notes to read, it all makes for a more
complete listening experience; at least for me. 
Do you have any such connection with physical releases?
Totally.  That’s how I connect,
too.  I have very little affinity for
consuming music digitally.  Nothing seems
real until I can hold it in my hand, recorded music especially.
There are plenty of ways of looking at the digital era of music,
blessing or curse.  As an artist during
the reign of the digital age what’s your opinion on digital music and
I guess the right answer here is that it’s essential for everyone to
have their music available digitally in some way.  Not necessarily for purchase, but at least to
hear, like streaming or whatever, since humans use the internet as their number
one resource for discovering everything. 
That said, Richie and Kill Shaman are essentially vinyl only, and I
think they’re appealing to a market that is interested in vinyl more than
anything, so it tends to work out.  I say
just buy the format you want and live with it. 
I go for physical product, but for those that look for digital, all I
can hope is that they consider that the music took time and money to create and
that they consider its value before hocking it to their pimply friends.  And for the record, Spotify is nobody’s
friend when it comes to compensating musicians. 
If Spotify were an ice cream flavor, it’d be pralines and dick.
Do you have a music collection at all? 
If so can you tell us a little bit about it?
Couple thousand LPs, yeah… 
Recently been listening to a lot of Sandy Bull, Link Wray, those
Hardcore Devo LPs that just came out…  Always
have some Alice Coltrane nearby, and some Groundhogs and some 70s era
Miles…  Chrome and Eno…  Recently discovered a band called Jade
Warrior from the 70’s on the Vertigo label that are like weird, minimalist
prog…  I typically like a lot of music
made in the 70’s, lots of LPs from then and the 60’s and 80’s as well.
Do you have a preferred medium of music for release?  With all the various mediums available to
artists these days I’m always curious why artists choose the particular ones
that they do?  What about when you are
buying music?
Vinyl, all the way.
told you before I was addicted to music and I am not joking.  I spend way too much time every week scouring
the internet and flipping through bins at the local shop so when I talk to a
musician I always make sure and ask for some recommendations.  Who should I be listening to from your local
scene or area that I might not have heard of?
Check out The Hecks, CAVE, Bichin Bajas, Running, Deep Sleep, Cairo
Gang, Golden Birthday and Angel Olsen.
Axis: Sova – I Feel Like Laying Low b/w Dopamine Boomerang – 7” –
Licking River
Axis: Sova – Weight Of A Color – 12” – Kill Shaman Records
Axis: Sova – Past The Edge b/w Grading With A Curve – 7” – Richie
Interview made by Roman Rathert/2013
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