It's Psychedelic Baby Magazine

It's Psychedelic Baby is an independent music magazine. We are covering alternative, underground, non-commercial and non-mainstream artists in variety of shapes and genres. Exclusive interviews, reviews and articles. A place where musicians can express themselves. We serve an international readership.

Mugstar / Cosmic Dead - Breathing Mirror / Fukahyoucastaluh Split LP (2014) review

Mugstar / Cosmic Dead – “Breathing Mirror” / “Fukahyoucastaluh” Split LP (Evil Hoodoo, 2014)

What to hell to do with 20 minutes of vinyl and an overactive imagination? Turn two of Britain’s cosmic spaced-out cowboys loose and hope for the best. Which is just about what you can expect from these two side-long tracks from two of the foremost purveyors of instrumental space rock ruining brain cells today. The Liverpudlian Mugstar emphasize their second syllable with a quiet, intergalactic opening to ‘Breathing Mirror’ that evokes the timelessness and emptiness of space exploration (inner and outer) in the finest Barrett-era Floydian tradition. There’s a lunatic on the drumkit who’s pounding out a heart-ripping backbeat for throbbing basslines, exploratory guitar voyages, and otherworldy sounds of confusion that mimic madness infiltrating the well-structured mind. Always interesting, never boring, the lads pull out all the stops on their journey to worlds and brain cells you never knew existed. About eight minutes in, the atmosphere thins out, the breathing mirror begins gasping for meaning in its surroundings, and ominous star clusters twinkle mysteriously all around you. Something is out there…are you willing to find out what…or why? Proceed at your (and your mind’s) own risk…. Works best for late-night/early morning come downs.

               Glaswegian space rock may sound like an oxymoron, but only by short-sighted ox-y morons who are afraid to accept anything out of their limited comfort zones. Now, admittedly, that title is not gonna garner any airplay, but I suspect they don’t give a feck. [I’m not sure, but perhaps it was a line from Scorsese’s The Departed?] Recorded at (and perhaps experienced as outtakes from) the sessions that yielded their latest (Easterfaust) earlier this year, it consists of their trademark brainfrying vibe crossbred with an improvisational flair that always seems to suck you in to their vortex of swirling atmospherics in true Hawkwind/Ozric Tentacle grooviness. A bit of krautocking mellowness permeates the proceedings, which ebb and flow through various mood swings on the way to find out the secret of the universe or, how to get “castaluh” (and you) as fucked up as possible before they run out of plastic.

Review made by Jeff Penczak/2014
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Merrell Fankhauser And The Exiles, The Velvetones, and Fapardokly - The Lost Desert Tapes (2014) review

Merrell Fankhauser And The Exiles, The Velvetones, and Fapardokly "The Lost Desert Tapes" (Ocean Records, 2014)

Since the early sixties, Merrell Fankhauser has been cranking out a steady stream of exceptional music, encompassing everything from surf rock instrumentals to pop to folk rock to psychedelia to progressive rock to space rock and just good old rock and roll. Last year, the internationally revered singer, songwriter, guitarist, and 2011 Grammy Nominee received a call from Mac MacArthur, the son of Glenn MacArthur, who ran the Glenn label, which was home to a number of Southern California groups in the late fifties and sixties. Mac informed Merrell he was combing through the archives and asked if he wanted the master tapes he discovered amid the digging. Merrell had forgotten all about these recordings, which never transpired onto vinyl, and readily accepted Mac's offer. And that is how "The Lost Desert Tapes" came to be.

The tracks by Merrell's bands, Merrell And The Exiles and Fapardokly, were recorded between the years 1964 and 1966. A Chuck Berry styled rouser, "Make It Back To Memphis," is punctured with girly squeals, giving the song a live feel, where "13th Child" crackles to a primitive garage rock pose, and "Love Only You," and "You've Been Untrue," are sliced of pure pop applications indebted to the harmonious guitar pop of Buddy Holly, the Beatles, and the Beau Brummels. Fapardokly's "The Music Scene" is a different version than the one featured on the band's classic self-titled album, as this cut includes a spoken word introduction. An astute commentary on the biz, the song articulates how tough it is for bands to get a break and even if success and stardom is attained, there is a price to pay. Buoyed by a sparkling folk rock polish, "The Music Scene" cribs visible cues from both the Byrds and Buffalo Springfield.

A relatively unknown group, the Velvetones are also presented on the set. Shaking with manic energy, there's the frat rock fashioned "Fuzzy Wuzzy," while the rest of the band's material are instrumentals combining surf rhythms with rather exotically raw edges. "On The Beach," "Velvet Stroll," "Moon Shadows," and the fast paced "Gerico" portray the band's youthful charm and exuberance to lasting effects.

Not only is "The Desert Tapes" a nice memento for Merrell Fankhauser's many fans, but it further checks in as a nifty document of a certain time and place. A must have for those in thrall to largely pre-British Invasion sounds, the historic collection sells for $18 and can be ordered from Ocean Records, PO Box 1504, Arroyo Grande, CA 93421.

Review made by Beverly Paterson/2014
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The Flying Eyes interview

When I discovered, that "The Flying Eyes" quartet would play in Berlin withing their new European tour "Baltimore Invasion", it was natural to buy plane ticket and prepare myself to visit the capital city of Germany, with its Wall, unofficially free-of-charge-metro and unexpectedly good coffee.
So on October 24th in Cassiopeia club (Kreuzberg) I made an interview with members of Flying Eyes.

You used to play in USA, and now you are in based in Berlin. What's the difference between American and European public?

So far we've got much better success in Europe and much more interest from people, better crowds, shows etc. By far this European tour was full of well attended shows, plus we went to a few new places, like Slovakia and Luxembourg - we haven't been there before and therefore shows weren't so well visited. But all the shows we played in Germany and other German-speaking countries were pretty well attended. There are lots of music fans in Germany.

Have you ever played in almost empty clubs?

Definitely. We played shows in front of just a few people sometimes, it certainly happens. You know, you can get out from a small area in America and its's hard to establish yourself outside of this little region.

Did you have any troubles with getting to Europe? I'm guessing incidents like missing a plane or loosing documents didn't happen?

Elias: There were many stories in our history, the worst one, the absolutely epic one was connected with the tour we did in Europe back in 2011, when we got sold fake plane tickets, stuck in airport and had to buy new ones. Yes, in the end everything worked out, but at certain point there was a pretty scary moment, when you were staying in the airport, stressed and confused, didn't even know you would be able to make this tour happen.

© Olga Batyreva

Was it hard to become a bit more well known in your area? In Russia it's really hard.

Aw, but what about "Pussy Riot"?

OMG, that was long time ago...

But "The Pussy Riot" are still in the news! By the way, do you know they are filming in the new season of "House of Cards"?

Elias : I've even been crushing on them, on one of the girls.

You are having "Lazlo Lee and The Motherless Children" as a supporting band on this tour. It was hard to find information about them. Are they your friends?

Yeah, they are really good friends from Baltimore, we played for the first time together. Discovered each other in 2010, I think. We played a show with them in a small strange underground venue, and we all had a lot of drugs ... it was just like: "OMG, we NEED to be together", and after that we had lots of shows in Baltimore together. Over the years we were looking for a good opportunity to bring them here to Europe, and finally "Lazlo Lee and The Motherless Children" are having their first European tour. They are a great band and good friends. But even more important, they are awesome band that deserves to be heard.

Mac: We sound quite similar in one way, but there are many differences nevertheless, so we are actually quite complementary.

 © Olga Batyreva
© Olga Batyreva

Your new album is much heavier and more doom oriented, than your previous work. Was there a special reason for this change in your sound?

There are always different periods, when you certainly listen to different styles of music, get interested in other things... It's kind of growing.

Elias: I like bands, which are changing. When every album has same sound it can get boring. Everybody should do what they want, and what they feel. Some bands, for example our good friend Parker Griggs, guitarist of Radio Moscow is really true to do that '70s "hard-drugs sound". That's his natural passion, the thing he desires to do. For us, we just did the same thing - we made music we are interested in and passionate about. We did not make conscious decision to change our genre. It was all natural, it happened by itself. And it is changing with our lives changing. When we play our old stuff, it works well together.

Did you make that playlist, that was in air before your show?

Yes, actually we created that playlist, thought that it would be good introduction to our set. On this tour it's being the same one on each show.

I recognized Ty Segall and Pentagram. What else was there?

Mark Lanegan, The Entrance Band and the actual intro to our set, that track with only solo singer, was just really old blues...

Mac: I found that recording in the collection of old film recordings from the Appalachian mountains. It's called "Conversation with Death" and it was record by the singer from Mountain Communities.

Where do you usually find new music?

Mostly from the bands you are playing with. We played with "Mars Red Sky" on this tour, French collective. There were a lot of bands we were supported by on tour, but MRS were one we felt like "Wow, this guys are really cool". They have their original sound and we were quite impressed.

What's your favorite album you recorded?

Every album we pulled out is a favorite, every time it represents the condition during some period. But the least pressure, that was put on us as a band, was spent on very first album, because we were careless and free, just did what we wanted to. So yeah, maybe the first album is a little bit naive, but cool anyway. But on the other side, Lowlands is much more confident work of ours.

And what about cover songs you're playing?

We covered "1969" by The Stooges - the last one, when we returned to the stage and Lazlo Lee joined us there.

Was there a song, that came so spontaneously to you, that you wrote it in just a few minutes?

"Raise Hell" came from nowhere. This is song we wrote in a couple of hours one day. It is actually b-side song of the album. We came together and it just exploded. Very unusual, because commonly it takes months to finish a song.

What can you say about your art work?

Kiryk Drewinski made art for our first and second album. He is from Germany and is also a musician. Right now he's playing with Wedge. We played twice with them actually, and he often give us lots of ideas and right direction.

Mac: Lowlands art is a work of local Baltimore guy, he is actually my boss at work, Geoff Danek. He found a bunch of old photos and made them moldy, added slides, aged effect, to reach this crazy colours etc. It was not made by computer.

Damn, I've forgotten the next question...

Mac: Aw, I know what you mean... Remember I was on the stage a few shows ago, wanted to say  "It's great to be back here from the last time..." - and could not remember the name of "here"...

OK, I'm back. Are you keen to improvise?

Various. Some parts are improvised. You should find the right mix between. It's good to take what's on the album and then if you are comfortable with that you can escape a little bit, but after that you should come back to it. For example, sometimes we rework and rewrite songs on the stage and they sound quite different. It happened with "Death Don't Make Me Cry''.

Let's remember, that show where you played with a saw?

Adam: Well, it all started when I was at the folk festival in Virginia.

When you were  young and innocent?

Adam: Yes, I was younger, and I saw this girl, playing a saw. That was the most beautiful thing I have ever heard. So I went to hardware store to buy a saw, and used my mom's old violin bow. And then I thought why not to make it electric? Electric saw, why not? With the right effects and revers it worked very well.

Your favorite model of guitar?

Adam: Rickenbacker, the most amazing guitar I've ever played, all the way!

And Gibson SG, which I dropped on this tour and it is fucking broke, so I had to use glue to fix it again.

Do you remember your very first guitar?

Mac: I had a Rogue bass.

Adam: Fender Stratocaster, Mexican one, it's still here in Berlin, in our manager's house.


Mac: Yes, Mexican stuff. They are actually quite good. Also Aspire, Japanese guitars are as good as American Fender ones.

What occupies your life beside being a musician?

Mac: I work in a rock-n-roll kind of bar-restaurant. And usually there are lots of shows with different bands.

Adam: Normally when I'm at home, besides music, I work in pharmacy.

Is there a local venue, that you consider as your home?

Yes, suppose, "Golden West" can be named like that. It's a small venue near our house.

Have you ever 'googled' yourself?

Everybody does! I even googled you, BTW. Sure. You can read reviews of your work, check new videos on YouTube or anything you haven't seen before. Usually we look for what was posted about us. Sometimes you find bad reviews, which are total bullshit, so yeah occasionally you have to tear them down. Bad reviews are usually better than good ones, ha ha! 

© Olga Batyreva

Can you describe your technical side of music making?

Adam: On tour I use one processor (which is mainly focused on my spacey kind of settings), then all my distortion and fuzz, all my tone comes out from my fuzz pedals, which are next to that.

Mac: Hah, Baltimore pedals.

Adam: Yeah, I have 3 fuzz pedals.

Do you think there is something you might experience and after that you can say: "I've done everything I wanted to"?

Adam: Before we came to Europe, I wanted to do all the stuff that we are doing right now, but after experiencing all this you just want to do more and your expectation are higher. I really like, that we are seeing a lot of the world and we went to India and looks like we're gonna play in Brazil. I don't know what to expect next. It's probably normal human condition, to always want more.

© Olga Batyreva

Interview made by Olga Batyreva/2014
© Copyright

Tapestry of Delights Expanded Version review and interview with author, Vernon Joynson

After eight long years, British music historian Vernon Joynson, offers up this brand new revised and expanded version of his seminal work chronicling UK Rock & Pop Of The Beat, R&B, Psychedelic & Progressive Eras between 1963 and 1976. The new edition contains far too much information to be contained within a single volume. The result is this massive two volume, 2064 page tome published by Borderline Productions and it is more than double the length of its 2006 predecessor, and triple the length of the original 1995 edition! This is no mere update, however, as many new features have been added, and each and every entry has been lovingly and meticulously rewritten. As the author has commented, “this book is lovingly written and compiled by a collector (helped by other collectors) for collectors and lovers of sixties and seventies Rock & Pop.” The resulting set indeed lives up to its lofty ambition of being “The Ultimate Guide To UK Rock & Pop Of The Beat, R&B, Psychedelic & Progressive Eras 1963-1976.”

Balduin - All In A Dream (2014) review & interview

Balduin "All In A Dream" (Sunstone Records, 2014) 

I was just thinking there, after listening to this astonishingly groovy set again, and also some of Balduin's previous Rainbow Tapes material, that this is actually how I imagined Nick Nicely could’ve sounded had he also thought to create his very own LP back around the time of 'Vox Dreams' and the great 'Hilly Fields' single, that were issued (the latter on EMI) at the very beginning of the 1980s.
However, putting such strange, odd little parallels aside, let us now meet Balduin, Switzerland's supremely gifted solo artist / multi-instrumental playing,  one-man band sensation who is currently, and effervescently so, keen to embrace many of the wide-eyed, wide-ranging, not to mention inherently melodic waves now being brought back, and forward (again and again) into focus. In doing so it’s creating a beautiful swirling movement of flowing sounds that are now cresting on a sea of mindblowing pop-style psychedelia; this daring do perhaps even more so than the likes of fellow journeyman Jacco Gardner; and all manner of other wily, enquiring, relatively young minds that are operating and experimenting from as far afield as Britain, and Spain, to California and beyond in these last few years. And now Switzerland!
Torn between the frequent accessibility of the pre- '68 / full-bearded Beatles goings on and some of the thought-provoking angles and intelligent pop-absurdism that emanates from the recordings by early Pink Floyd, Donovan, Incredible String Band, Jason Crest and, say, well just for argument's sake Boeing Duveen & the Beautiful Soup. The last I mention because of our hero's seemingly abiding passion for Dr. Hutt's oddly strange and weirdly prescriptive formula; not only has he covered the confusingly brilliant 'Which Dreamed It' right here within the grooves of All In A Dream but he’d already thought to include a hugely tasty version of the Duveen's wickedly whacked-out topside wonder 'Jabberwock' as part of a liquidly languid golden pearl of an EP issued earlier this year called The Glamour Forest.
However, it's perhaps in the sheer breadth of seemingly fearless musical and lyrical glad-roaming found within the words and music of some of his own self-composed works that the indomitable spirit of Balduin is at its most creative; highly-charged, and spanglingly illuminating. This is where the likes of 'Kite Come Back' with its filigree air, the instantaneously grasp of 'Change', 'Glamour Forest' itself (the shimmeringly beautiful cut that's not included on the EP of the same name) and the altogether more spiritual sounding and highly personalised tones he adopts in 'Father', plus many more palpable, tangible, kinetic, Lennon-esque passages ... Some of what's happening within is difficult to aptly describe, and perhaps what each individual recipient also feels will be different, like the rise of some new, or at least untapped emotion breaking through; music like this can sometimes be that with us as the conduit as we drift into reverie, or zone out completely.
Many of the selections here add such extra-appealing features as mellotron, sitar, flute, plentiful juicy fuzz licks, plus a whole kaboodle of passionately executed simplistic, effective drum patterns and deliciously played soft guitar strummings. So as you can imagine, there's more than enough to make a whole new world of intrigue and mystery for you to explore. Everything heard seems to weave to and fro enmeshed in sets of well-chosen lyrics, and well-placed vocal rhymes; some new, others borrowed, some ching, others vibrate while one or two disappear almost as soon as they arrive.
Almost instantly the rewards will be most obvious whichever way you look at it and, in fact, almost everything Balduin has utilised here works in some practical way or is an artistic endeavour that helps formulate what is fast becoming one of the modern music world's most excellently realised psychedelic art-pop aural installations! Hear, see, feel, float, trip!

Balduin interview conducted by Lenny Helsing September 2014

Lenny Helsing: Well I suppose the first thing to establish really is when did you get into music in general, and more specifically, how and when did you then migrate towards the psychedelic sounds of the 60s?

Balduin: My first musical instrument I learned was Swiss dulcimer. I could choose which instrument I wanted to learn. My music teacher said my hands could play every instrument I would like so I chose the dulcimer. Later on I switched to classical guitar and took some beginner's lessons and learned picking basic chords. From then on I started to cover and recorded demo tapes for myself and formed a band with my friend who played the drums. We were the youngest band in our village and played in church and several other occasions.

How long have you been writing songs, and what kind of songs did you start out writing?

To be honest some of the songs or bits of it are on "All In A Dream". ‘Autumn’ for example is one of my first songs I wrote when I was around 14 years old. Playing guitar really helped with writing my own songs and learn from playing covers like ‘Arnold Layne’, ‘I Am The Walrus’ and ‘Blackbird’. But the dulcimer gave me the skills in hearing and playing notes immediately.

One can detect some of the prime influences that pop up in your songs, first a few on the "Rainbow Tapes" set then a few stronger realisations on your first UK release the fantastic EP "The Glamour Forest", and also now being heard throughout your debut LP which is also on the Sunstone label, "All In A Dream", such as the Beatles, early Pink Floyd, a touch of the Incredible String Band too perhaps, and a few more besides from the English '67 scene, but I wonder if you could tell me which names have had the most impact on you as a songwriter and creator in this regard?

Today I would say all of them now and even more bands I still don't know ;). But before deffo The Beatles and the early Pink Floyd. The ISB came much later when I was exploring Gong and Krautrock. Much of the music from the 60s I discovered through listening to "modern" music like The Orb, KLF, Boards Of Canada, Ultramarine, Wagon Christ etc.. They sampled and mentioned them in their music so I was more curious in the roots than what is going on today. Without knowing of the ISB I would have definitely missed a bright spectrum of what's in the music. Thank god for knowing them.

You play all the instruments yourself and do all the singing, and you also took care of all the arrangements, musical direction and the production side of things on the album too is this correct? If so, why so ... why no group for example?

My early experiences in playing within a band were interesting and I learned a lot. But I always was the homebrew musician recording stuff by myself. This takes less time and I can record whenever I want and change things without asking my group members. This appears egotistic but it is even cheaper and takes less space too. What I miss by doing it all by myself is the feeling of live playing. Still today I think recording an album and playing live is a total different thing. In the studio in need my own time recording the music how I want. Some instrumental parts are tricky and don't get alive with overdubbing. My dream for my next album is to have a combination of both.

A few of the selections, like ‘Kite Come Back’, and ‘You Can Never Pipe My Fancy From You My Dear’ remind me of some of the feeling and atmosphere that Nick Nicely made back at the very beginning of the 1980s, are you familiar with any of his material such as the great EMI single Hilly Fields (1892) ... ?

Nope. I know the Dukes of Stratosphear but not Nick Nicely yet. Will definitely check it out then. Thanks!

The likes of 'Father' to me has quite a spiritual dimension and so I wondered if this was also your intention? And also were you listening in again to the Beatles, and Lennon in particular, for some extra inspiration here?

Lennon wrote ‘Mother’, I wrote ‘Father’. There was no intention for me to copy his song. My message is different as in Lennon's ‘Mother’ but it's obvious that people get curious. It's the most personal and touchy one on the album. I wrote this for my Dad because I really miss him. I think it can't be sung a second time in that way and captures a big emotional feeling.

Going back to your "Rainbow Tapes" recordings and specifically the likes of ‘Lily Sees Dandelion’, ‘Years Ago’ and ‘Jump In The Past (A Horse And A Car)’ ... what was going on in your mind to concoct such as these lyrical tales ... and I'm thinking that the Beatles, and perhaps the Incredible String Band again could have been sitting on your turntable around that time. Certainly something like ‘Jump In The Past’ gives me that nice warm feeling I get when the Incredibles are playing?

Sure I played them constantly. I recorded "Rainbow Tapes" during 1994-96. During the initial recording sessions, my roof room window was covered by snow. The whole roof room was lit up in white. This light influenced the recording of "Rainbow Tapes". Some soundscapes were recorded with tape loops, either played backwards, higher or in a lower pitch. You'll definitely hear the inspiration; "Rainbow Tapes" is my first example into the psychedelic studio music era in the late 1960s. Compared to my latest album "Rainbow Tapes" is less pop but more experimental and lo-fi. "All In A Dream" is the growing father of "Rainbow Tapes", it's ten years later and many things have changed.

We heard the great dramatic tones of ‘Jabberwock’ on your "The Glamour Forest" EP and now we have ‘Which Dreamed It’ on the album. As these were both sides of the 1968 single by English psychster(s) Boeing Duveen and the Beautiful Soup - in reality Dr. Sam Hutt (in later years trading as the eccentric country pub-rocker Hank Wangford) may I ask why you decided on covering not just one but both sides of that 45. Gleefully realised and authentic to the max too, of course, but I just wondered what your reasoning behind this was ... other than that they are both charming and outrageously psyched-out compositions?

That song ‘Jabberwock’ I discovered first thanks to the “Rubble: Magic Rocking Horse" sampler and was amazed by the similarity of Syd's early Pink Floyd songs. Later I found out that he even hung around with Syd at that time, there's even a photograph. Years later I found the original 7" and paid the price. I'm now a proud owner of this 45. I think it's still one of the best in music which was released in that period but wasn't known by many people. Even now. The reason why I left out the B-Side ‘Which Dreamed It’ is simply because I didn't record it yet. I always was afraid of that sitar part but finally managed to play it. Maybe ‘Jabberwock’ had to be challenged first before getting into more dreamful areas ;) I think Simon from Sunstone gave me the final incentive to cover it finally. A similar thing happened with the EP name "The Glamour Forest". The song itself is missing on the EP but appears on "All In A Dream".

I also wondered, do you always use a full acoustic drum kit, or is there a mix of real live hitting and some modern electronic kit action going on ... it sounds a little perhaps like the drums are umm perhaps a little treated in some way?

I hadn't got the opportunity to use a full kit. But I did use some live snare hits and mixed it in with some recorded drum kits which I mostly recorded or from libraries I owned.

Thanks so much Balduin, as I think I said to you already I love your music and really hope the album is a smash success for you and can go onto reach into the hearts and minds of many listeners out there today! Cheers and many thanks again.

Review & interview made by Lenny Helsing/2014
© Copyright

Sun Zoom Spark - Left For Dead (2014) review

Sun Zoom Spark “Left For Dead” (SlowBurn Records, 2014)

“Left For Dead” began its life 13 years ago when poet John Galuska invited the trio to contribute music to accompany some poems he wrote and an electronic piece of music he had recorded. Under the influence of strong psychedelics, the band recorded an hour of improvisational music and the project was left to linger. Last year, Sun Zoom Spark guitarist Eric Johnson revisited the project and edited their recording and added some overdubs, mixed and mastered the album and now it is available for you to wrap your own head around.
The original psychedelic jam has been edited into distinct segments which Johnson gave titles to, and Galuska is also on hand with exceprts from his lengthy electronic piece that gave the project its name. But the affair begins with the ominous ‘Put Out All The Sounds’, which is sort of an Overture to lay the groundwork for the journey ahead. Drummer Bryan Kohl lays down a funky backbeat to propel ‘Round Again’ through a series of electronic bleeps and bloops that are like twinkling stars bouncing off your synapses as you journey through the cosmos.
Johnson tinkles his way through a mellow, jazzy piano riff under a searing guitar solo and some progressive keyboard swashes for the lazy, dreamy ‘Left For Life’, which leads into the first of Galuska’s three electronic ‘Transmission’ pieces. The band hit their stride with the enveloping chaos of ‘Masterpiece By Midnight’, full of flailing drums, wailing guitars, and sailing keyboards which is satiated by another of Galuska’s eerie electronic ‘Transmissions’ (this one a bit like those small furry animals that Roger Waters was grooving along with in a cave with a pict back in his “Ummagumma” daze. This brings us to the album’s title track and 17-minute centerpiece that again begins with a catchy-yet-simple riff reminiscent of Miles’ “Kind of Blue” which slowly morphs into a supernova of mind-assaulting electrical explosions, bubbling brooks, haunted house organ, and eerie, pant-shittin’ sound effects that sound like something’s trying to gnaw its way into your brain to feast on a few fried brain cells for dinner. Mmm, mmm, good! Thank goodness for the trippy, mellow respite that is ‘If We Wait’ to help us float safely back down to Earth! This is closer to vintage Black Sun Ensemble (ca. “Lambent Flame”) than the heavier elements earlier in this album.
In addition to the Galuska piece, the trio took a preliminary run through Black Sun Ensemble’s Eastern-tinged, Arab-flavoured ‘Jewel of The Seven Seas’ (featuring some tasty banjo from Johnson), which would eventually find a home on their “Starlight” album, released several years later on the collectable Australian label Camera Obscura. Hearing this early incarnation is a revelatory experience in understanding how the late BSE guitarist Jesus Acedo’s mind worked – taking the vestiges of the track and inserting his personality…and acid-fried solos!
The whole endeavor is one long, groovy, psychedelic trip, akin to both Bardo Pond’s Hash Jar Tempo collaboration with Roy Montgomery, with a little taste of those vintage krautrock grooves from the likes of Brainticket and Ash Ra Tempel, as well as nods in the general direction of Mushroom and Black Sun Ensemble, whose membership at various times included members from Sun Zoom Spark. So if you’re a fan of any of these projects – or exploratory, improvisational hallucinatory “head music”, you owe it to yourself to check out the latest from the always inventive Sun Zoom Spark.

Review made by Jeff Penczak/2014
© Copyright

Nihilist Spasm Band interview

Nihilist Spasm Band was formed in London, Ontario in 1965 and soon became one of the weirdest music collective to the present day. Back in the late '60s music became flooded with flower power fashion and everyone tried to join a 'rock'n'roll' band, but there were still a lot of groups who didn't care much about the fashion and tried to take their own music to the next level. Among them were experimental bands like Red Krayola, Cromagnon and a lot of others. Nihilist Spasm Band was even weirder than aforementioned groups and I can barely imagine a teenager, professor or anyone in particular buying their record solely because of the cover artwork, which looked pretty bizarre. Purchaser probably expected some innocent novelty record – but what happened next probably shocked them. We are talking about 1968, remember that. Sure you had a lot of freak'n'roll music around, but mostly people were used to regular radio friendly music (not that today is any better, even worse).
From the very start of their album you can hear loud growling voice screaming: "Destroy the Nations. England is dead! Destroy America. Sheuggghhhh on Canada!". You can only imagine how the recent LP owner felt when hearing this.
In the following interview we will go through their musical journey. They are still active after so many years. The beginning can be attributed to Greg Curnoe (1936-1992) (among other factors), who was a film director and wanted to do a soundtrack for his upcoming 16 mm film.
Curnoe decided to do something unconventional and bought a lot of kazoos and gathered some friends to perform free-improvisations using aforementioned instruments. They realized they are enjoying improvisational performance and after soundtrack was made, they built larger kazoos and added one-string acoustic bass and also an unusual drum set. They made another step and plugged everything into electricity. Soon they added electric guitars, electric violin, theremin and everything that they felt it was cool. Even building weird instrument like 'noisemaker' and stuff like that didn't stop them. They went further, recorded and toured in places like Paris and London, but most of the time they were really an obscure collective of friends, playing whatever they liked and that is the main reason why I find them as one of the most interesting groups.
I have always been a lover of improvisational music. I think a lot of people have whole different perception when it comes to improvised or experimental music. Technical ability is highly regarded among most of the regular listeners, but for me that is not important aspect of music; meaning that I truly believe music is an extension of individual performer who is translating the language of his soul or emotion into the language of music and when everything is made without any restriction or intention, catharsis is possible. To understand music you don't need any education, because music is the language we all can understand. We will always cope with obstacle of moral nature, which individual listener is experiencing while listening to music and his perception of understanding.

L to R: John Clement, Murray Favro, Bill Exley, John Boyle,  Aya Onishi, Art Pratten
© Dennis Siren

Greg Curnoe co-founded Nihilist Spasm Band in 1965 to make a soundtrack for his movie. What was the name of the film? Was it ever released?

Bill Exley: The title was "No Movie", and it included scenes from Nihilist Lodge in Port Stanley, Ontario, which our group rented for two summers in 1965 and 1966, and also scenes from the first Nihilist Banquet, which included a formal programme of speeches about the history of nihilism and other toasts to the past and future, together with the singing of "God Save the King" (he had died in the early '50s). The movie also included scenes from the first Nihilist Picnic, which featured races such as "women’s kick the shoe". (The 50th annual Nihilist Picnic was held on September 7, 2014.)  There were also scenes from a lacrosse game and people drinking in the York Hotel. "Connexions"was another movie made by Greg about people and places in London, Ontario.

The Nihilist Spasm Band with Greg Curnoe in 1966. From left, Greg Curnoe, John Boyle, Hugh McIntyre, John Clement, Murray Favro. Vocalist Bill Exley's megaphone is on the right.
Photo: Don Vincent

Murray Favro: The movie although Greg’s project was also a collaboration. Hugh McIntyre (later a band member) who worked as a film librarian had much to do with making it he had the connections to get editing done on "No Movie". He also supplied cuts of a Farnburogh Air Show as well as undersea creatures like octopuses and sea snakes. I am unsure but think it was Drew Gilles of the National Film Board who did the actual film editing because neither Hugh nor Greg could operate editing equipment. The first kazoo involved in our nihilist activities was at the first nihilist picnic in the same location where some of the filming for the movie was done.
When Greg saw the film cuts of all us London people playing Kazoos at the beach, that gave Greg the idea to use a kazoo sound track. The soundtrack was recorded in Greg’s studio in that fall or winter. It was a lot of us and I believe we watched the film as we played for the soundtrack. It was so much fun to see it and hear us make noises. And best of all it needed no synching up it would always connect up somewhere interesting. Like a sea creature cut would sometimes line up with a weird sound or a jet would make a near fart sound that exploded into wild noise. It worked as a separate tape soundtrack not actually on the film. The movie was shown in art galleries across Canada and I think Greg had it in a local film co-op who made it available. It was never released it remained an experimental art movie. The chaotic sounds in that sound track had an interesting high energy to it that got us rather jokingly talking about what if we formed a band. Hugh thought more of it than a mere joke because within a few days he showed up at my studio holding a small Kazoo and a funnel he wanted to make a louder kazoo for the band we were talking about. I could not join them up so we went to Greg’s studio his power drill and somehow joined the two things together. Greg got excited about having us form a band. And was soon rounding up people to talk about it. Art Pratten was there within a day or two and Greg got John Clement who had already made a 12 string guitar as well as a Archie Leach who assured us would be a good addition since he was known to hang out 3rd story windows and shout insults to people walking by on the sidewalk below. Archie always wore a suit coat and tie and was working as a bookkeeper. He seemed a contradiction and probably a danger to himself but anyway we tried him and his harmonica, which didn’t seem to work with our stuff. He gave up on the harmonica and invented a slide clarinet that was loud and perfect for our band. Exley and Boyle were in it by then too they would come to London on weekends from their jobs out of town. Billy Exley however did not want to ruin his teaching career so anytime we were to play in public he would wear a monkey mask. Greg, Boyle and Pratten made kazoos and we all collected used drums. Hugh had someone make him what he called a 'gut bucket bass' this consisted of a 5 gallon metal drum with one string and a levered neck to change the notes as he played. I played drums some of the time and a thing with strings on it that needed amplification. Exley sang through a huge megaphone on a stand. This was the beginning before amplification that soon came as I made guitars and Hugh had an electric bass made. By the time of our Allied recording we were all amplified.

Nihilist Spasm Band on the top of Greg Curnoe's studio. May, 1966. 
Photo: Don Vincent

Art Pratten: "No Movie", it did get some circulation and then became a myth with a lost soundtrack.

John Boyle: It was released and later the soundtrack was lost without a trace.

Do you know his original idea behind making improvisational soundtrack?

Art Pratten: A soundtrack was needed and like everything else at the time if you wanted or needed something you just went out and did it. We had some kazoos we obtained more and a group of about 15 to 20 sat around in a circle and kazood.

John Boyle: Someone found some red and black (actually red and navy blue) 25 cent kazoos and we thought they looked like Nihilist colours of red and black. People sat around in Greg’s studio (he was a painter) and threw ideas around. He decided on his friends improvising on kazoos because the film was about connections among families and friends and the interdependence of people.

How did you know him and where did you all meet?

Bill Exley: I met Greg at a party on Talbot Street in London, Ontario in January, 1961. I had brought a recording of Ravi Shankar classical Indian ragas, and he borrowed it from me and invited me to his studio to get it back. Greg was then interested in new ideas of all kinds, and he retained this intellectual interest in a variety of topics all his life. He was interested in jazz, for example, but he also listened to French eighteenth century music, recordings of Ezra Pound and other twentieth century poets, and he read writers like George Grant, who had written "Lament for a Nation" in 1965, a book about the importance of Canadian nationalism. Through most of the almost 50 year history of the Band the members conversed, not only about making noise, but also about politics, arts, ideas, etc. This kind of discussion was a part of the vitality people felt when they heard us.

Murray Favro: I met Greg by going to his studio when I was in my last year in art school. I wanted to see what a studio looked like and how do I get to rent one once I finish art school. My teachers advised me to get a studio and begin working. They knew Greg was back from Toronto and started working in a studio in London. Ron Martin another art student knew Greg and had suggested we should drop by on our way back from a trip to a Picasso show in Toronto. I was impressed by Greg’s artwork and studio. It was at Greg’s studio that I met other people who eventually became part of the band. Greg is the only artist I have met who could paint and carry on a conversation with a number of people. He had a lot of chairs to sit on and lots of people came and went as he worked. Every Saturday Hugh would buy a few cases of beer they went into a big thing with ice in it we sat around and had a few beers people would show up a lot of nurses someone had met and other beautiful young ladies would arrive, Greg would put on records and it became a party. People who were around in the creative influence of that time went on to do interesting things elsewhere, one person went to head the national film board, another went to run and edit Arts Canada Magazine. Tony Pennicott later became premier of the Yukon. The point I am making is there was a cultural scene of creative and interesting people and lots of them, and a place like Greg’s studio was important as a meeting place.

Art Pratten: Greg and I grew up in the same neighborhood, went to a couple of the same schools and took newspaper from the same depot.

The Nihilist Spasm Band in 1966. From left, Bill Exley (vocalist, with his giant megaphone), John Boyle (kazoo), Greg Curnoe (kazoo), Murray Favro (drums), Hugh McIntyre (one-string acoustic bass) and left Art Pratten (DIY door stop instrument). Taken in Greg Curnoe's studio.
Photo: Don Vincent (published in Region Issue No. 8)

John Boyle: We were all independently friends with Greg or with one or another of his friends, some from early childhood. We met in his loft studio in downtown London. I was introduced to Greg by my friend Bob McKenzie in 1960. Greg took an interest in me because I had decided to become and artist.

Curnoe was also a member of London Regionalism. Can you tell us what was that about?

Murray Favro: London Regionalism was a way of thinking for Greg not a thing he belonged to. The way I understood him was the way he emphasized that art need not emulate what is happening in a place like New York but is as relevant no matter where it is done and need not emulate anything. In short Greg needed other creative people to talk to in his own environment. He valued the Nihilist Spasm Band because it was not like mainstream culture, and would be an honest export from this region and as relevant as any other creative works from anywhere else. We are however not his invention I was showing my work in other cities within a year of getting my first studio here in London. Greg did encourage people to stay here though which actually is OK but rather unrealistic because the world was becoming very mobile at that time and every artist that lived in London then is long gone except myself. The concepts of the band are no leader no planned musical direction where everyone plays what they want. We are all individuals in the band and one of us (Bill the singer) who wants some predictable words and structure to our song pieces. We do restrain ourselves at the beginning of his reading of the lyrics. But in the past he used to insult the audiences but now likes them and insults band members to be quiet while he reads the important words. We agree with him but just find it difficult to be quiet.

Art Pratten: The idea grew out of the belief you could find inspiration and resources locally and since none of us were interested in leaving necessity was turned into a virtue.

John Boyle: There was no London Regionalism organization. Greg was from London and loved London. He thought London was as relevant and important culturally as any other place, including New York, Paris or the other London. This was revolutionary thinking for many of us, to love the region you came from. We lived and continue to live in a colonial culture that tends to think that anything produced here is inferior to things produced in the Mother or Dominant culture, e.g. England, France and the United States.

Did any of you have any musical knowledge?

Art Pratten: We all had a knowledge and appreciation of music, but no formal training.

John Boyle: In spite of what some of us may claim, the answer is NO!

What do you think was the main inspiration and influence for Nihilist Spasm Band back in the '60s?

Bill Exley: London, Ontario was a conservative (in the bad sense) and unadventurous kind of place, and I think  this environment created in many young people the desire to be hostile.

Murray Favro: In the 1960’s I cannot think of any influences on the band except to have fun making energetic sounds.

Art Pratten: I think the building of the instrument was the catalyst for the band. We could have gone on listening to music, arguing about music and  kazooing forever but when we started modifying kazoos and building new instrument we really started to compete making a noise and this created a "Noise Band".

John Boyle: We each individually had our own tastes, interests, influences and inspirations, not necessarily shared by any of the others. We each brought ours to the group. All of us were necessarily influenced by the others’ influences whether we liked them or not, simply because we were forced to deal with them in our group improvisations until we found something we were more or less happy with. For example, a few of us were aware of New Wave free jazz like Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler or Cecil Taylor, while others liked Mediaeval Troubadour music or English madrigals, or the Rolling Stones. We learned to throw our licks at each other and bounce them back and forth. If you hated some things you tried to drown them out with your sound, and thus we became noisier and noisier.

What influences you these days?

Murray Favro: Our influences have always been the moment and the space we play in along with our equipment and listening to the other members. It is a very immediate experience and not a real influence.

Art Pratten: Just about everything.

John Boyle: I just try to listen carefully to the many improvisers we meet at festivals and performances and learn from them when there is something that might benefit or change my playing. I like much of what I hear , but have not yet heard anything that would radically change what we do.

What was the scene in London, Ontario back then? Where did you hang out?

Murray Favro: At first we hung out at Greg’s studio but it soon changed to be at the York Hotel. And that also was where the band began playing every Monday night we packed the place we also got a lot of press coverage outside London in magazines and newspapers.
It was on one of these Mondays that Bosswell head of Allied records came to hear us and during an intermission talked to us outside the York. He wanted to bring out a record of us. Soon we recorded the album in Toronto. That is how we got the record deal by Bosswell coming himself to hear us.

The Nihilist Spasm Band in 1968 at York Hotel. They played every Monday night in their pub for several years.
From left, Hugh McIntyre (bass), Art Pratten (Pratt-A-Various), Archie Leitch (slide clarinet), Murray Favro (guitar and drums), John Clement (guitar), Bill Exley (vocals and theremin), John Boyle (kazoo), Greg Curnoe (kazoo and drums). 
Photo: Ian MacEachern

Art Pratten: Greg's studio was the real centre. It was open and admission was a passion for something...anything... art, literature, theater, movies, car racing, boxing, girls, beer and parties. Not necessarily in that order.  

John Boyle: London was extremely exciting in the mid 1960’s for young visual artists in particular. Greg Curnoe had moved back to London after art school and found a large loft studio. He and a group of friends opened a small cooperative gallery called Region Gallery showing uncompromising local work. He also started Region Magazine where provocative local thinkers published their thoughts and poetry.  20/20 Gallery followed, and 20 Cents Magazine. Jack Chambers moved back to town from Spain and began painting full time in his studio. Local musicians were playing in various pubs, and the York Hotel agreed to let the Spasm Band play on Monday nights. Artists, writers, academics, and musicians met and socialized in Greg’s studio and in other artists lofts, exchanging ideas and dreaming up projects.

Allied Records was a pretty big record company and it's quite unusual they got you signed and manage to release your LP titled "No Record". Did Greg Curnoe had any ties with them?

Murray Favro: I remember Allied Records was some offshoot of a big label, it was based in Canada Boswell actually owned the tapes himself. He was out to record the next thing to happen in music and was recording all the experimental stuff he could in case it may be one of them that sets a new direction in the music business. Allied was doing an early scouting for new directions.
He would not have been in the least interested in us if he noticed influences by other bands in what we did. The Allied Corporation is the real name to search out on the web otherwise you will end up only finding Allied Recordings in western USA that is not the right Allied. Greg had no ties with Allied until later when they began negotiating with us and I got the job of designing and doing artwork for the cover of the record jacket. Someone else did liner notes, (I think it was Hugh) and do not know who designed the back of the jacket; it may have been assembled by the printers in Toronto with material we sent them.

Art Pratten: Not that I know of. A guy showed up on a Monday night and asked if we were interested in making a record and we said "what will it cost us?" he said "nothing" we said "sure why not".

John Boyle: He knew some other artists who were recording with Allied, and probably that is how Allied heard about the NSB. Allied was looking for new experimental bands and individuals to record. I think they thought they would discover people who might become big in the unpredictable psychedelic music world of the 60’s. They asked us to record.

I would like if you could tell us what are some of the strongest memories from recording this album. Where was it recorded and what instruments were used? You had your own 'noise-machine'.

Murray Favro: It was done as if a live performance one take no rehearsing, which we cannot do anyway. We gave titles later for some of the tracks. I remember my Toronto art dealer being there with his secretary, (he had taken an interest in exhibiting and selling unusual guitars I had made a few years earlier and always was asking about the band and what we were doing. He had not heard us though until that recording day. He could not contain himself from jubilant laughter; he recognized pure creative activity was what was going on. He liked it so much that he right then ordered two cartons of the albums before they were made. I asked him later why did he buy so many and Carmen replied ‘they will be worth a lot some day’. Some of them eventually sold for hundreds of dollars each. I played a homemade version of a guitar with no frets on it; also the neck could be bent to change a note while playing. Look up my name on goggle and on images the guitars are there. You mention a ‘noise machine’, I never heard of any ‘noise machine’ unless it was that thing Art Pratten tried out with doorstoppers on it.

Art Pratten: The recording session is very much a blur for me except for Archie who was hyper and shouted out some lyrics of his own. That is where "Dog Face Man" comes from.

John Boyle: We recorded the record in a studio in broadcaster Bill Bessey’s basement in Toronto. There were several kazoos, drums and the bass. The guitars had replaced a couple of kazoos. Archie Leitch had made a slide clarinet and Bill Exley played a theremin that a friend had built for him. I remember a wife or 2 tickling Bill’s feet so he could make laughing noises.

What meaning has the material on the album? "Destroy the Nations" has some very provocative lyrics…

Murray Favro: I think "Destroy The Nations" had provocative lyrics as you suggested it does. But when I actually listen to it implies that countries mentioned have lost any idealism or Nationalism has no meaning or value any longer. It is about doing away with the failed concepts of nationalism. But then again another of our songs may imply the opposite on later songs like  "No Canada" where a line mimics the Troggs in saying "Canada I think I love you,. But I want to know for sure". Those provocative lyrics are fun to say and fun to hear. Too much syrup is not good for anyone.

Art Pratten: They were suppose to be provocative and humorous.

John Boyle: All of the band members contribute lines, words, ideas. We would sit around in an artist’s studio or in a restaurant and shout out our contributions with Greg writing them down. We were usually trying to be funny and outrageous, but not serious. Some of us were anti American, others were not.  Some were almost entirely non political. Our sense of irony made things seem more revolutionary than they actually were. Over the years some of us have learned that ironic comments are entirely lost on many members of the public.

How about the cover artwork? Who made that?

John Boyle: The photo is of Hugh McIntyre, our bassist for 39 years until his death. Some friends had bought him a north African bernuse, a long gown, which he wore occasionally. The band members agreed on the title. I was not involved in the design. Was it you, Murray?..., or Art?

Art Pratten: That was all Murray.

What happened after the record came out? It actually had some promotion & distribution since it was released on bigger record label, right?

Murray Favro: Your question about a bigger record label is perhaps a different Allied than the one Boswell was head of. ( confusing it was Allied. My impression was that they spread the albums thinly around the world to see what might happen somewhere. It was on it’s own in record stores where they did sell what they made then Allied sat back to see what might happen. Something did but it was a spread out audience and what eventually happened ten years later was someone offered to make a new album and the same has happened other times through the years and by now we have made a lot of albums, perhaps because of that first one with Allied.

Art Pratten: We were jubilant. The Band got about 50, we each took a couple copies bragged to our friends about it and promptly abandoned the rest at the Greg's studio.

John Boyle: Nothing much happened. It did receive some air play, and we got a few invitations to play on university campuses. Gradually copies found their way around the world and began to build our international underground reputation. It took a long time before we got any feedback. One copy made its way into the hands of Toshiji Mikawa and Jojo Hiroshige of Hijokaidan in Japan in the late 1980s. In 1991 we received an invitation sent to the mailing address on the record in London to record on Alchemy Records, Jojo’s label in Osaka.

What can you say about concerts? With who did you share stages?

Murray Favro: The NSB has played numerous concerts and music festival things and tours, so many places that I sometimes mix them up when I try remembering what happened where.
Audiences today are better listeners than the ones in the 1960’s and more musicians can play along with us now also it seems that in the past they always wanted to bring some concept to try out with us. These ideas never worked, now many musicians can just play with no plan its all listening and reaction what they do will be a surprise to them. Some people I remember were Maynard and the Mocking Birds, Mike Snow, Lighthouse, Sonic Youth, Joe McFee, Joe Joe and Junko, to name a few.
I have never listened to weird stuff.

The Nihilist Spasm Band performing in UK at ICA, London (1969). From left, Archie Leitch (clarinet), Hugh McIntyre (bass), Bill Exley (theremin, vocals), Art Pratten (pratt-a-various).

John Boyle: For 20 years we mostly emptied theaters and bars. In the 1980’s we played in Quebec for the first time and received an enthusiastic response for nearly the first time ever. We were shocked. In the 1990s we began to tour internationally for the first time since 1969. Also, the No Music festival was started by some young enthusiasts and fans in London. There were 5 festivals in all. We played with many of the world’s leading improvisers, including Fred Van Hove, Thurston Moore, Lee Renaldo, Hijokaidan, the Incapacitants, Ken Vandermark, Alexander Hacke, Joe Mcphee, REM, and countless others. We were always impressed by the down-to-earth civility and friendliness of the musicians, but we were never overawed by them. Thankfully, we always felt like equals. Of course, all humans are equals.

You even went to Europe. What's the story behind that?

Murray Favro: We have gone to Europe many times on tours and played in festivals there. When you ask what the story is about going to Europe you must be referring to the first time we were sent as Canada’s part in an art cultural thing in Paris’s at it’s main contemporary museum where other countries sent stuff to hang on walls we played outdoors and the street audience seemed to enjoy it. Then we went to some art school in London England and played next and came back to Canada.

Art Pratten: We represented Canada at the Paris Biennial. It was great none of us had been to Europe before, the wives all went and we had a great time and Oh yes we played a couple of times.

Your music is very unique. Did you know or listen to other weird stuff like "Trout Mask Replica" by Captain Beefheart? Or perhaps bands like Cromagnon, Red Krayola or even maybe work like "Indeterminacy: New Aspect of Form in Instrumental and Electronic Music" by John Cage and David Tudor?

Murray Favro: Never heard or heard of any of those people like Beefart, or Krayolla or the others even never read about or heard John Cage’s stuff, only heard the name in conversations.

Art Pratten: The problem is that although we listened to various groups we can only do what we do make a noise on whatever we have at hand in response to whatever noise the others are making.

What are some of the craziest memories you have, that happened on the road or in general?

Bill Exley: There are so many funny stories. The story Murray tells about the van in Quebec having to drive back a hundred miles to pick up Bill Exley, whom they had left behind, is not true. It is a crazy story, but it is an invented one.

Murray Favro: I am now trying to think about the craziest things happening while traveling with the band. We toured and made an album with Sunplexis they flew over from France and we started in Quebec from there we got in a van and came into Ontario. I forgot most of the trip to Toronto but when the album came out Sunplexis wrote the liner notes in them were things I had forgotten but seemed crazy to read. They complained that Canadian food causes diarrhea especially that peutine stuff, then went on to say we had forgotten Bill Exley at one of the rest stops and did not notice for hundreds of miles before we went back to get him. We actually noticed almost right away because it was so quiet in the van, the problem was these super highways in Canada are one way with a turn around point which is about a hundred miles then when you are going back on the far lane (again one way) you can only wave to him and then proceed to the next nearest turnaround to get back in the right lane. So OK it was a couple hundred miles but that’s nothing in Canada, it’s a big place. I suppose in Europe it would be like driving from France to Russia perhaps but here it is necessary to get to those turnarounds and it was crazy for Sunplexis. That is my crazy trip story wait listen to this when they got to Toronto they went “whew that was a long way but at least we got to see all of Canada.

Art Pratten: I view the Band as one single long event. Individual events just blend in. 

Do psychoactive drugs play any role in your songwriting, recording or performance as a band?

Murray Favro: We never took drugs but at a performance with Maynard and the Mocking Birds after hearing us one of them said to Hugh "we will trade you what we take for what you guys are taking". Hughs answer was perfect "You get high to play"……"we play to get high". And that is our attitude still.

Art Pratten: At 10 cents a glass beer was and still is the drug of choice.

It took almost ten years to record second album, which came out in 1978. What's the story behind this one?

Art Pratten: We played at the "Music Gallery". They said that they recorded all concerts and did we mind if they put out a record, we said "what will it cost us" they said "nothing" we said "sure why not".

Later on you recorded and released a lot of albums and you had a few visits to Europe and Japan. You actually have a lot of fans in Japan. How do you feel about that?

© Warren Pratten

Murray Favro: It is good to have listeners appreciate our creative works. I think I understand why they like us, it has to do with living in their society that is so structured and with proper ways to act that they let loose when they see unstructured creativity. As an example one of the best Japanese noise performers works at a high up job at a bank but he is an entirely different person making noise music on weekends banging his head with drumheads and making noises like a cave dweller. They need chaotic distractions.

Art Pratten: It is nice to be liked. and it was nice to go to Japan meet the players and hear what they were doing.

© Warren Pratten

How did the lineup change during the years?

Murray Favro: The only person to quit the band was Archie Leach and he did it around late 1969 so he actually was only in the band for about 5 years. He was about to turn 30 or had already. Archie had told us many times he had a goal to be a millionaire by the time he was 30 and we were had not helped with this ambition of his so he wanted his fair share of any money we had put into buying amps. Hugh and I had the task of solving this by not stopping him from quitting the band or making us sell the amps to give him his fair share. A few beers and patience listening he wanted cash not any band equipment and he settled for a share of the equipment when the band breaks up and sells it. Hugh wrote out an agreement for us to sign on a cigarette carton. I’m not sure how legal it all was or if Hugh made two copies. Anyway Archie seems to be OK with the fact we still have not broken up the band.

Band in 1990s. © Norma Exley

Greg died while riding his bicycle that was hit by a truck about 1995. Hugh died of cancer in about 2008. Aya is now our drummer; we met her in Japan where she organized our tours there. She was truly a fan and sort of followed us back to Canada where she went to university to learn English well enough to be able to dub movies. I was never sure if it was to dub Japanese movies with English or to dub English movies with Japanese. Either way she ended up not dubbing films and marrying John Boyle, now she travels as our drummer to all concerts. She is like a member but wants to stay out of any internal band problems so we have to decide things.

Art Pratten: Archie Leitch left of his own accord, Greg was killed, we picked up Aya Ohnishi in Japan and then Hugh died. I can not imagine adding anyone else. We will probably continue playing til a few more die and the others are not let out.   

50th Annual Nihilist Spasm Band Picnic. Murray Favro is missing. Taken at Poplar Hill Park, near London, Ontario.
© Jesse Locke

Aya Onishi: When I was fourteen years old in 1984, my school mates and I started the band called Sekiri in which I was the drummer, and that led me to meet Jojo Hiroshige of Hijokaidan, who is the founder of Alchemy Record in Japan. In 1996, I was working at Alchemy Record, and we organized the Spasm Band`s first Japanese tour. During the tour, I sat in with the band and played the drums with them for the first time in my home town, Kyoto, Japan. Later In 1998, I was interested in making sub-titles for movies so I decided to go back to school to study English again, and I told Jojo about my plan. He gave me the crazy advice that I should  go to a school in London, Ontario, Canada so that I could go to their every Monday night show! I thought it was a brilliant idea so I followed the advice, and  ended up being lodged at the Prattens, going to school, and playing with the band every Monday night. I got a chance to make sub-titles when the great Canadian film maker, the late Zev Asher made a documentary film about the Spasm Band called "What About Me: The Rise of the Nihilist Spasm Band" in 2000, and the film was shown in Tokyo, and Osaka in 2004.  Looking back, I did lots of shows, tours, and projects with the band. To me, the sound of the band is unique, curious, and stubborn but never menacing. When we play with great attention to each other`s sounds, it  becomes incredible. It sounds alive. When we play like that, that is definitely my favourite moment of the band.   

Who is currently in the Nihilist Spasm Band and what currently occupies your life?

Current band members;
Murray Favro  (lead guitar)
John Clement  (lead bass)
Art Pratten  (lead prat-a-various and second fiddle)
Bill Exley (lead vocalist)
John Boyle (Kazoo, drums and lead thumb harp)
Aya Onishi (lead kazoo and lead drummer)

Bill Exley: One of the bad things about getting older is that people fall into attitudes of hostility, narrowness, and lack of intellectual curiosity. I am reading new books, meeting new people, and finding inspiration from people who are young or who have youthful enthusiasms.

Art Pratten: As answered in "What influences you these days?"... Just about everything

Any advice for people who are starting a band?

Murray Favro: Tour as little as needed in a year or your band will break up. We have seen it many times a band with a gig almost every day for months. If you do this just remember familiarity breed’s contempt (sais Uncle Hugh). You will hate one another in no time if you overdo it, just do what you can enjoy otherwise your band may last a maximum of 4 or 5 years.

Art Pratten: Be bold'  there will always be people who will be surprised and amused that you have the audacity to put something out there but if you believe in what you are doing they will come to either appreciate what you are doing or at least respect you for doing it. But remember... this is for you, your vision comes first.

The Nihilist Spasm Band atMusic Gallery.
Art Pratten, Murray Favro, John Boyle, Aya Ohnishi, Bill Exley, John Clement 
© Tara Fillion

I would like to thank you for taking your time and effort for this Psychedelic Baby interview, which I  really enjoyed making.

"Under AK 47", 2014 
John Boyle, Bill Exley, Art Pratten, Murray Favro, John Clement, Aya Ohnishi
© Laura Exley

Interview made by Klemen Breznikar/2014
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