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“Supergroups” are often tired, uninspired and pointless. At least, that is often the case in the rock and pop worlds. Jazz musicians, on the other hand are composed of recombinant DNA, and musical promiscuity is the norm. Most jazz groups made up of veterans are “supergroups” because the top players share a rarefied air of technical and expressive excellence. Hence this group, a quartet whose members truly need no introduction to the jazz audience. Their collective moniker is particularly apt as each of these gentlemen has carved out an empire on the continent of post-60s improvised music.
“Impressions” – Things get off to a strong start with a sprightly take on the Coltrane classic. The gauntlet is thrown down and the manifesto is presented. This is the kind of jazz these people are all about. Meat and potatoes, 1960s style, with a LOT of flavor in the gravy.
Bartz’s “Uncle Bubba” is a tune I knew from McCoy Tyner’s 1984 “Dimensions” album (which featured the late violinist John Blake. Oh Coltrane, your children are such beautiful musicians!). This version seems to my ear to emphasize the tune’s Thelonious Monk-ish influence, especially in Bartz’s solo. Williams is in great tone and his solo is full of odd jumps, glisses, and suspensions which perfectly fit the Monk vibe. A short and sweet performance.
“Search For Peace” by McCoy Tyner – Dusky dissonances from Willis lead to a simple, singable sax melody (I keep imagining this sung by a choir). Bartz states his piece and leads Willis into an achingly wistful bridge. Willis then journeys through frustrated resignation to mellowly funky uplift while Foss supports with empathetic brush work, at one point hinting at double time. Bartz plays bluesy with the melody before the bass sings a lullaby for a peaceful sleep. Bartz’s recap recaptures the wistfulness and ends alone but for arco bass. No wonder they named the album after this piece.
Jackie McLean’s “Capuchin Swing: is tasty mid-tempo bop. I wasn’t familiar with this tune to make comparisons between versions, but this recording is brightly swinging and well played.
“Soulstice” by Bartz is a Coltrane-y uptempo tune built on a bluesy bop riff. Bartz gives us sweet freedom-in-the-tradition and Willis channels Tommy Flanagan and Cedar Walton in his dense-but-swinging accompaniment and melodic solo. Foster’s marching snare leads the parade of toms.
“Crazy She Calls Me”, and “Lotus Blossom” – These gentle readings are perfect Sunday afternoon jazz. And “I Wish I Knew” is characterized by Willis’ choppy stabs and William’s restless aggression.
“Summer Serenade” was unfamiliar to me, but was written by the old master Benny Carter, I was inspired to explore this album after hearing this tune on WBGO in Newark, New Jersey. Buster’s gentle groove leads us into a composition that perfectly exemplifies its title. Foss plays his ass off underneath (WHERE does he get all these cymbal textures?) and Buster showcases. I need to mention that this disc is extremely well-produced, one of the best sounding albums I’ve heard this year.
Overall, this disc shows that the old masters still have it. Henry Rollins once mentioned that he loved when older music and older musicians kicked the ass of the new, young and hyped. This is certainly the case here. Four vets with nothing to prove, proving that when you mix experience, vision and a big dose of passion, art results. Tasty, accessible, deep and moving, its well worth joining the Heads of State on their “Search For Peace”.
It’s always been my contention that once played, a song never really stops playing, perhaps over your stereo, but not in the ether, where it continues to circle the globe and beyond, just waiting for someone or something to tap into its presence ... and Pauw [meaning Peacock in Dutch] have done just that. Listening and watching this band, who’s very clothing seems to have once existed, perhaps in the Matrix, or at the Fillmore, where on a heady San Francisco night, Pauw certainly could have opened for the likes of The Jefferson Airplane, or given Moby Grape a run for their money, painting hypnotic musical images that kaleidoscope before your eyes, morphing into the hazy blue smoke filtering its way to the ceiling and into the stratosphere, where it was caught by gentle galactic sound waves, and has been spinning out there for all time.
Perhaps Pauw have existed before, or just were never able to catch the moment before. Nevertheless, they certainly exist now, not so much re-igniting a spark that once was, but fanning the flames of a fire that’s never gone away.
Being known as a great stoner band Elder of Fairhaven, Massachusetts they transformed in something more organic and interesting. Elder third album came out under pretentious title “Lore” both on vinyl and CD on Armageddon Shop and Stickman Records, February 2015. It’s magic one hour long journey from catchy stoner stuff that firstly attracted attention to the band till natural cosmic psychedelic explorations, and it makes me wonder each time I listen it – how did the band go through these metamorphoses? Right after return of Elder from their huge tour in support of the album, I've got a chance to talk with band’s frontman Nicholas DiSalvo and ask a few questions about successfulness of spreading the Lore on another edge of Earth disc.
Hello Nicholas! Elder's last record "Lore" was released on February 2015; what has the band been doing since then?
Hello! The band has been quite busy with touring since the release of the album, I believe at this point we've played over 100 shows this year alone, so that hasn't left time for much else, unfortunately... The past few months we've been trying to concentrate our time off from touring on writing more music, which is coming along, albeit slowly.
"Lore" is very natural, highly energetic album. It streams and flows as a real river of starlight in the dark of space. I bet that you heard a lot of such comparisons but I wonder how do you see a core of this albums its authors. What’s “Lore” for you?
The album feels like a melange of sometimes conflicting, sometimes harmonious contrasting ideas. In some ways it's more organic than its predecessors but in some ways it's more mechanical and crisp. These dynamics are something that we try to draw out as heavily as possible in our music and we sometimes draw criticism for trying to pack too many emotions or stylistic turns into one album, but it's this interplay in particular that makes playing music so exciting for us.
What kind of "lore" did you mean naming the album with such a title?
The lyrical themes in Lore revolve around the idea that humans have created an extensive and quite fascinating volume of mythology and folklore to explain our existence on this planet. A lot of the songs muse on the reasons for us being here and the way we cope with the big questions about the meaning of life.
"Lore" shows development of Elder in something new as you saturated its musical body with new elements. Did it make “Lore” record session different considering previous one?
The recording of Lore was quite straightforward, as were the sessions for our previous records. Perhaps things were even more focused this time as there were only 4 days booked to record the entire album, so the pressure was pretty heavy to stay on track and get the best results out of our little time. I recorded 3 of the 5 songs entirely by myself, so that was a difficult task for sure and a few ideas didn't pan out the way I had intended, so there had to be some quick revision. All of that adds an element of spontaneity to the recording that we cherish.
Do you have any songs that were left from last record session? Or are all things you wrote on this album?
We have lots of ideas that never make it past the phase of editing, but no full songs that have been discarded. Usually an idea that gets rejected will show its head again in later years in another form; we save lots of riff ideas that we're not sure how to use until the time is right.
How did this change happen? How did you turn to a more complex and progressive form of stoner?
I wouldn't consider Elder a stoner band at all anymore – the change that we've undergone is simply what we see as a natural progression of ourselves as musicians. Elder is not intended to be any sort of band at all, or to fit into any genre constraints nice and neatly, since we're really not interested in recycling the same ideas album after album. Our goal is to write interesting and innovative music that resonates with us (and hopefully some others!).
"Lore" songs sound as concentrated euphoria, how does it feel to play it live?
A lot of the album is quite emotional and some of the dynamic changes certainly bring out a sense of euphoria. When we perform the songs well and they sound as they're intended, it's always a rush – especially when we see the music connect with the audience. These songs are much less about headbanging and whatever than those of the previous albums, so it's less about adrenaline and more about synching up with each other on stage.
Elder played Roadburn and a lot of smaller shows. What were your most positive and negative impressions from gigs you ever played? You know – most of our readers (and myself) expect stories about booze’n’drugs in Black Sabbath vein.
We're amazingly fortunate to have the opportunities to travel and play music the way we do. One of the most thrilling moments of my musical career with Elder was our first European tour, travelling through breathtaking landscapes and smiling ear to ear, playing shows every night for eager audiences who have never seen us before. That sense of awe and wonder in playing in foreign places has never left the band and we look forward to our overseas trips more every time. Of course there is a good deal of carousing and some stories about drugs and booze and whatever, but that's really not as important as things like meeting your childhood legends and playing legendary festivals. Unfortunately, some of our most negative experiences have been with shows in our own country, learning that the scene and some promoters still have a very long way to go before they can compare to our European and Australian friends.
You've just returned from Australian tour, how did you organize it? What were most remarkable things you see there?
The Australian tour was put together by Life is Noise, a booking agency based in Perth/Melbourne. We had an absolute blast, all the shows were killer. It was a bit exhausting, the distances between cities are even more than in the States so you have to fly from one show to another to keep your sanity, but it was so worth it. Highlights from that trip? Laying on the beach drinking beers in October when it's already cold back home, getting our asses handed to us by Earthless every night, hanging out with crazy animals in an animal sanctuary. It's a lovely country.
Straight after return from Australia Elder hits the road and do another tour with Spirit Caravan, how often do you tour? And how did you keep yourself in form during such long journeys?
We've been touring pretty much constantly since Lore came out in February and we'll keep up that schedule for a little while still. Unfortunately, we don't really do anything to keep ourselves in shape during those long tours... where it's possible, we sleep as much as we can and try to eat a decent meal, but there's really nothing in the way of exercise to be had. Luckily we're still young enough that we can abuse our bodies for a few more years, I hope!
Next year is tenth anniversary of Elder, how would you sum up an experience you have gained on your way from "Elder" debut album to "Lore"?
Our journey with Elder has been the most rewarding one of my life and has validated the notion that music is the thing I live for. It's been very gratifying and extremely fun. Keeping a band together across time and space is a very challenging exercise and touring full time has taught me a few lessons about myself and my relationships to other people, but I consider the entirety of it quite valuable.
I have two standard questions nearly for everyone. First of all please tell a story of one of your favorite song in the album.
"Compendium" is definitely one of my favorite songs and I really love it because it was written by the band together, which usually doesn't happen (I am normally the principal songwriter). It was the first song that was written for Lore and one where we decided to make a decisive break with the past and move in a stranger, more progressive direction, and I remember discussing what that might mean for our future and fanbase, but eventually saying 'fuck it', we have to do what we want to do. We played the song live a few times before recording but it never felt entirely right, but one day something changed and we were able to rewrite the middle passage and everything clicked. I remember feeling certain that we were on the right track with the direction of our new material.
And next one is about more influential book you read in school – what is it?
Without a doubt this book is War and Peace by the Lev Tolstoy. I had the fortune of studying this book at university and fell in love with his amazing style of interweaving fiction and nonfiction, as well as his studies of the human condition. The themes of War and Peace touch upon the most fundamental human concerns – the question of how to live life in light of the certainty of death – which was something I had never truly asked myself either. For that reason, the book changed the way I think about my own life.
Nicholas let's finish our interview with that question - what is a message of Elder?
Elder is nothing more than the expression of three individuals' creative freedom! If there's to be a message in that, it would be for everyone to exercise their own creative selves.
Quilt’s new album is sensational on many levels ... first the vinyl is clear, second the gatefold album jacket is embossed, and third, it’s a limited edition package filled with brilliant, bouncing, and well constructed bits of wanderlust that will move you through a sun filled afternoon with delight and splendor, or an evening of hypnotic shadow play.
Quilt are one of the few bands who manage to get this 60’s neo-psychedelic revival correct, using sustained cord changes, modest effects, and balance themselves between psychedelic folk and dream-pop as if they’ve got one foot firmly rooted in the past and one in the present, where they splinter the night with one luscious song after another. The tracks are more enchanting and cohesive than ever, slightly atmospheric, with their vocals now crystal clear, and a presentation that is flawless, as if they’ve handed out mood enhancers that sparkle the edges and fill this album with songs that are well crafted, intimate, and own the space in which they exist ... creating a package that’s downright flammable.
The Brian Jonestown Massacre - Mini Album Thingy Wingy (A Recordings, 2015)
At last count (which seems to change daily), Anton Newcombe has released nearly 50 albums, EPs, and singles over the past 30 years under the Brian Jonestown Massacre umbrella. These include an imaginary film soundtrack, a Charlie Manson cover, song titles to offend just about everyone, particularly Beatles (‘Bring Me The Head Of Paul McCartney On Heather Mill’s Wooden Peg’, ‘I Want To Hold Your Other Hand’, ‘Here Comes The Waiting For The Sun’, ‘We Are The Niggers of The World’, Who Killed Sgt. Pepper?) New Order (‘Blue Order/New Monday’), R.E.M. (‘Automatic Faggot For The People’), and the Dandy Warhols (the infamous ‘Not If You Were The Last Dandy On Earth’) fans, and the odd two-finger salute to religion (‘Just Like Kicking Jesus’, ‘God Is My Girlfriend’). And there are some who still don’t think his chosen moniker is very funny.
Lately he seems to be practicing his Rosetta Stone language skills with numerous French, German and Icelandic (!) tracks and this mini-LP thingy wingy finds him tackling Slovakian (the heavy-lidded ‘Prší Prší’). But through it all, Newcombe has remained fairly faithful to his chosen musical path, combining spot-on recreations of UK beat, Stonesy swagger, headswirling psychedelia, ear-crushing shoegaze, and mellow, blissed-out hallucinogenic navel-gazers that have influenced dozens of bands plying their trade via scores of YouTube marketing (Jesus On Heroine, Rancho Relaxo, Blue Angel Lounge, Bad Liquor Pond, Kingdom of The Holy Sun, et.al.) Here, he even covers a classic 13th Floor Elevators’ song (‘Dust’) and wrangles Black Angel Alex Maas to stand in for the late Stacey Sutherland on electric jug. He’s nothing if not authentic, and his encyclopaedic knowledge of garage and psych music’s forbearers is just another reason he’s one of my favourite composers/performers.
Newc’s also been experimenting with Middle Eastern sounds, and opener ‘Pish’ evokes stoney evenings wandering the Casbah in a purple haze of kif-induced euphoria. ‘Get Some’ is a frolicking singalong with prominent fuzz backing, ‘Leave It Alone’ is a psychedelic, bluesy race through the jungle, trying to outrun something with evil on its mind and blood on its claws, and the, ahem, aforementioned Beatles/Doors pastiche ‘Here Comes The Waiting For The Sun’ is a brain-frying, grey cell-burning, tub-thumping exercise in backwards guitars, African drumming (think John Kongos’ ‘He’s Gonna Step On You Again’ or Gary Glitter’s chest-pounding braggadocio), wah-wah’d vocals and just plain batshit atmospherics that’ll have you reaching for a new pair of smalls if listened to in the dark. Like, it’s a bad trip through hell with the C.A. Quintet on your tail, man.
We are very happy to announce our next physical issue. Soon out and available worldwide. This time we prepared a special issue dedicated to Psychedelic Folk. This issue is divided in two volumes. First volume is full of interviews with so called "loner" folk artists coming from USA and the second volume will be dedicated to pastoral British Psychedelic Folk scene. You can find many interesting stories, that I wrote together with musicians. You can find in-depth interviews with artists such as Michael Yonkers, Dave Bixby, Dana Westover, Linda Perhacs, The Tree People, Gary Higgins and others. There’s also 10 pages with new releases reviews. Most of the content is not available on our website.
Publisher: Guerssen Records
Pink Floyd - 1965: Their First Recordings (Parlophone, 2015)
Prior to their seminal release of The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, Syd Barrett, Roger Waters, Richard Wright and Nick Mason, along with their then guitarist Rado Klose, were walking down the same path as The Rolling Stones and many other bands of the day who were looking to the blues of America, and creating their own garage versions of many of the songs that while weren’t so popular here on white AM radio at the time, were certainly sweeping the European continent, causing Americans like the The Standells, with “Dirty Water” to take notice, and bring this treasured sound back to the United States, where it flourished.
This garage/garage psych R&B infused sound was the genesis of the cultural revolution, bringing into existence groups such as Moby Grape, Big Brother and The Holding Company, and even Love [who took the genre a step further]. Yes, this material is very much of the time, and exactly what I heard Pink Floyd preform the first time I saw them at the Fillmore, where they mixed these sounds with that of The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn ... an endeavor that work flawlessly.
Don’t go thinking that you’re going to hear anything earth shattering here. What you do hear has been done before, and often better. But there’s something special about hearing Pink Floyd express these numbers in an almost off handed easy going fashion. The one surprise comes on the song “Butterfly” where you are treated to essences of what’s waiting just around the corner for The Floyd. And it’s here, on this three minute track that Pink Floyd blossom, hinting at their future, and sounding for all the world as if they’re making a sincere attempt at creating something truly original and inspiring.
It’s a solid collection of material, and the vinyl release of 1050 copies is sure to go through the roof. It’s not a must have, but it’s certainly a must listen, and for that reason I’m glad it’s in my collection.
With the release of H.P. Lovecraft Live at the Fillmore coming out on audiophile vinyl this fall (Sundazed Records), I thought it would be a good time to answer some of the questions I've been asked over the years, and correct some misconceptions concerning the group. The following is the true story of H.P. Lovecraft.
The Beginning...H.P. Lovecraft (named after the author...more later) began in 1966. I had been on the road playing folk and blues venues for a number of years, had just gotten married, was newly settled in Chicago, and pursuing a career as a singer and musician. Wanting to stay in town and looking for work, I auditioned for a locally known Chicago singer who was putting together a instrumental/vocal trio to play hotels and supper clubs. David Michaels (Miotke) and I met at the audition, were hired, and started rehearsing for what would become "The Will Mercier Trio". We really enjoyed working together and became good friends. He was attending Northwestern University studying music composition and theory, had perfect pitch, a vast classical background, and a four octave vocal range! I loved singing with him. David wasn't familiar with the music I was doing, or much in the way of Folk, Blues, R&B, Soul, Rock, or contemporary music at all. But that was part of why it was so cool. He was original, he was pure, a blank canvas with enormous talent! If he heard a tune once he could play it! In addition to all this, he had an encyclopedic knowledge of old standards, show tunes, light jazz, and baseball! As much as we enjoyed working together, there was considerable tension with Will. He was older, kind of rigid, had tons of rules, and was a lot more serious than David and I. We stuck it out for a couple of years because the money was good, but the handwriting was on the wall.
Though I was playing with the trio,I hadn't stopped recording as a solo artist. I had begun writing songs a few years before, and was working with a management/production team to develop material for a solo LP. I had signed with a Chicago label (Dunwich), and had just released my first single. The record was starting to get airplay, and I was asked to record more sides. Bill Traut, one of the producers, suggested doing some covers, so we chose a few. Among them was "Any way that you want me" by Chip Taylor. After listening to the completed track, it was clear that something was missing, and that David singing harmony was it... a no brainer. By this time David and I had gotten very tight vocally and were operating on a different level than either of us had previously experienced. It's hard to describe, but I think we both recognized that something was happening. His vocal harmony part was the perfect thing, everybody loved it... the first H.P.Lovecraft record was in the can.
The Name...I've read a few tales concerning how the name was arrived at. Here's what happened. George Badonsky (my manager, later the band's as well) had a Yorkie terrier named Yuggoth. I thought it was a wild name and asked where it came from. George introduced me to the author H.P.Lovecraft and loaned me his copy of "At the mountains of madness". Oh Boy! Then to top it off, Bill Traut (George's partner) was a friend of August Derluth who happened to be the executor of the Lovecraft estate. Unbelievable! Talk about timing. That's how we came up with, and got permission to use the name H.P. Lovecraft. Bill also had a complete set of Lovecraft's books. I read everything!
The Band...Well, we had a name, we had a record, we were negotiating a multi record deal with Phillips Records, but we lacked one thing...A Band!
I had never played an electric guitar. David had never played an electronic Keyboard, but we loved to sing, I was writing, and we were working on songs. I borrowed an electric guitar, and David dipped into savings and bought a dual keyboard Vox Continental organ and an amp for each of us. After losing our home to a fire the year before, my wife and I had moved to a small apartment in the Chicago suburbs. This became our home and music studio. David and I set up in the living room and began jamming. We worked on songs from my folk repertoire, songs from other writers, and began exploring musical ideas that later would become H.P.Lovecraft songs. The first of these was "At The Mountains Of Madness" I had just read the book, which inspired the lyric, and David and I created a very Lovecraftian musical theme...our first real Lovecraft tune! Meanwhile we were searching for musicians. This proved challenging because most of my musical friends were acoustic musicians, and David's were from the classical world. With help from management we began auditioning players.
Tony Cavallari was one of the first people we encountered. He was young, a little edgy, played the blues, and had a free spirit. I liked him right away. The problem was, he lived in Indiana, 50 miles away, and didn't have a car! Tony soon became a regular on our couch, staying at our place for days at a time. David and I were still working with the Mercier Trio, Jamming with Tony during the day, and gigging at night. We were coming together musically, but my home life was suffering. Things had to change. I convinced our management to rent us a rehearsal space in Chicago. They found a place on an upper floor of an office building right downtown in the heart of the city. Because the building was in use during the day, we could only rehearse there at night from 10pm on. This was fine when it was just Tony, David, and myself, but as soon as we added bass, drums, and a Sound System for vocals, things got a little dicey. Police visits became regular events. The first one came as quite a surprise. On this particular evening we had just smoked... and though we had opened the windows (we were on the eighth floor), I'm sure the room reeked of cannabis. Suddenly the door opened and two uniformed police entered.The police were very courteous and professional. They told us there had been a noise complaint (it was 2am) and could we please close the windows. Then they left... Hallelujah!
Shortly after we moved into the city we met Michael Tegza. He was 16. A sharp dresser with an outgoing personality, and an off the wall drummer! He was solid right from the start. Our first bass player (there were 3) was Tom Skidmore. Tom was a nice, well rounded all american guy who really wanted to be in a band. He loaned Tony his Gibson ES-330 guitar which Tony immediately fell in love with. This got Tom a few extra weeks with the group. Tony used this guitar for the feedback effects on the recording of "The White Ship" and claimed that its pickups were responsible for the other worldly sound he achieved.
David and I left our trio gig and began focusing on Lovecraft exclusively. By this time we had a strong set of performance material and I had just written "The White Ship". The song came to me in one sitting on a bench in the hall outside our rehearsal space. It was written on an acoustic 12 string guitar in about fifteen minutes. When we got back to the rehearsal and began playing it, everything just fell together, it came to life. Tony's Guitar, Michael's drumming and especially David's Organ, harmony vocal, and Harpsichord solo created the unique ambience of the piece. H.P. Lovecraft had arrived... We had a sound! We were starting to play some local gigs, and needed a stronger bass player who could keep up with Michael and possibly sing with David and me. Jerry McGeorge was suggested. Jerry played rhythm guitar with "The Shadows of Knight", a Chicago group with whom we shared management. He was leaving the group, and we invited him to join Lovecraft as our new bass player. Things jelled quickly with Jerry, and we went into the studio to record the first LP.
The First Album...The first record "H.P. Lovecraft" was recorded at Universal Recording in Chicago in a little over a week. The band was well rehearsed, and we were ready. Recording was very different in those days. Sessions were booked in three hour blocks of time, and you were expected to do a song from start to finish in that period. Unlike most of the bands in the midwest then, we weren't imitating other artists, we were original, recording original material, with an original and experimental sound! Because of this, and our desire to actually use the studio as an instrument, we required a certain amount of experimentation time.This drove our producers, and to a lesser extent our engineer crazy! They'd never seen anything like it. We booked our sessions six hours at a time instead of the usual three, sometimes more! We were spending precious time (Money) exploring what we could do in this new environment, and loving it! Jerry and I were the only band members with studio experience but the other guys soon jumped right in. Everything was going well until it came time to record "That's How Much I Love You Baby (More or Less)". This song evolved from a chord progression that I had been toying with for years. One day Tony uttered the phrase (speaking of a girlfriend) "That's how much I love you baby more or less", and I latched on to it like a dog on a bone. The rest of the lyric came pouring out, and we had a tune. It was new, jazzy, swingin', and in 3/4 time. Whoops! Michael and Jerry (our rhythm section) were rockers, and try as they might, just couldn't grab the jazzy swinging feel of the song. After numerous unsuccessful attempts to record it, we ( the producers and myself) decided to bring in some musicians who were more familiar with Jazz to play the bass and drums. This pivotal moment represents the first ripples of discontent and fractioning within the group. After that it was never the same. We went ahead and recorded the piece with the studio musicians, and it was everything we'd hoped for, but because of the bad feelings created, decided to use a lesser take with Michael and Jerry playing drums and bass on the recording. I still really like the song. I've been asked about the ships bell on "The White Ship" and the cowbell on "Wayfaring Stranger" many times over the years. Here's the story. The first album was a four track recording. This means that as you go along, things must be permanently combined to make room for new sounds. Once this is done there's no going back, it's forever! Both bells were added to our recording by Bill Traut using this process. His intentions were good, but in my opinion they're both too loud. While on this subject, I'd also like to say that the horns on the album were a later addition as well... Also done by Bill Traut, and arranged by jazz pianist Eddie Higgins. They added these things without our knowledge. I was upset by this at the time, but have since come to realize how important and meaningful these additions were to the sound and success of the record. One more thing to know about the LP is that "At The Mountains Of Madness" was written for, recorded, and intended to be on the first record. (It was later released on H.P. Lovecraft II) It was omitted in favor of "The Time Machine"to my everlasting embarrassment. I wrote "The Time Machine" as a send up of a popular novelty tune of the day "Winchester Cathedral". It was a joke, a total goof, complete with megaphone vocal and a big yteh-thir! It was never intended for the public, but there it is.
The Road...Almost as soon as our first LP was released, it was clear that we were a bit out of sync with what was happening musically in the mid west. Local radio just didn't know what to do with us. Though we were gaining popularity and people were requesting our record, our best known tune "The White Ship" was six and a half minutes long! In those days if you wanted a song played on the radio it had to be three and a half minutes or less. We needed to branch out. As fate would have it, Bill Graham heard our record and arranged for us to come west, play the Fillmore Auditorium, and do a west coast tour. As soon as we arrived in San Francisco we knew we were in the right place. Our record (the whole LP) was in constant rotation on local radio, people stopped us on the street, and were lined up outside the venues we played. We had no idea! The shows were fantastic! Unlike the mid west, the people in California cared about the sound, they cared about the lights, they cared about the music!! We were in Heaven. Some of us were getting high...it seemed like almost everybody was getting high! It was the 60's and we were feelin' it! After that first California trip things really changed. We were on the road constantly, coast to coast and back again for eleven months! We traveled in two leased vans, driving around the clock, seven people plus our gear. Needless to say, this took a toll. We played some great gigs, and heard and jammed with some amazing musicians, but the group was falling apart. The label was demanding a record, we'd been on the road constantly for eleven months, and I hadn't been writing. The other elephant in the room was that I wanted to move to California! We still lived in Chicago, our management was there, plus George and Bill were dissolving their partnership, and we had to choose one or the other to manage us. Great timing! David and I were also drifting apart. On top of that, one band member was whispering in Davids ear to jump ship and start his own band, not realizing that what people were interested in was how we sang together. We were a team, that's where the energy was, and why we were successful. David was a huge talent, and could have easily had a solo career, but he didn't write songs, and outside the band, had no real relationship to, or interest in contemporary music. Never the less, it was a distraction. During this very chaotic time we also fired Tony Cavallari who seemed to have lost interest in the band and really wasn't playing well. This was a mistake and I take responsibility for it. We replaced him temporally with Chicago blues guitarist Joe Kelly, but after the first gig it was clear that Tony was our guy, and that letting him go was a bad decision. I apologized, and Tony returned to the fold. Somehow I managed to convince the band that our future was in California. A lot was up in the air, and it felt like a good time to relocate.
After the move, we settled in to begin work on the new record. The energy within the group wasn't good. In hindsight, I think there was some resentment and repressed stuff with a couple of the guys, which was affecting the group vibe, and more importantly, the music. Enter Jeffrey Boyan (our third and last bass player). Except for early on, I never felt that Jerry was comfortable or happy with the band. When he joined, his playing really helped us come together, and he was great onstage. So what was the problem? At this point in the band's history, we needed to up our game. To find another strong singer (which Jerry wasn't), and a good bass player. Preferably someone that could also write. I had known Jeffrey since the folk days. We had jammed together many times. He was a great singer with a good ear for harmony, wrote good tunes, had good stage presence, and played guitar and bass, just what was needed. On a personal level I should also say that I never felt supported or liked by Jerry, and when I heard that Jeffrey was interested in joining the group, I was very enthusiastic, as were the rest of the guys. We had a record to make, and Jeffrey was like a breath of fresh air.
The Second Album...We were under the gun. The label was threatening. Our manager had booked studio time in L.A., we had a new bass player, and very little in the way of material. I had started work on a few song ideas before leaving home, and was excited to hear what Jeffrey was bringing in. I had high hopes. I wasn't disappointed. We were recording at a studio in L.A. owned by the Beach Boys (ID Sound). The engineer (Chris Huston) proved to be exactly the right person to record the group. He saved the day! Chris was a total wild man, often with a beautiful woman on his lap while he recorded. He was also a genius. Chris had been experimenting with backward tape, multiple delays, and numerous other studio effects years before they were in common use. He was way ahead of the curve, and brought his knowledge to bear on Lovecraft II. "Electrollentando", "Mobius Trip", and "It's About Time" are examples of what I'm talking about. Those tunes couldn't have existed without Chris's magic. Jeffrey brought in "Blue Jack of Diamonds", and sang the Billy Ed Wheeler classic "High Flyin' Bird". He was a perfect fit. Since the first record we'd been looking without success for a song that featured David. David was also starting to write songs, and wanted them to be considered for the record. This created some tension because Jeffrey had just joined the group and we'd already recorded one of his original tunes, and featured him on another. Plus, I'd brought in two songs from my friend Terry Callier "It's About Time", and "Spin,Spin,Spin". David wasn't happy. We finally found "Keeper of the Keys" by Shipley and Brewer, and recorded that as David's solo piece. The label must have liked it, because they released it as the single! Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys liked the group. One night he came by the studio with a friend. We were in the midst of something, so nobody was paying much attention. Later when we were listening to what we'd recorded that evening, I noticed Dennis and his friend sitting in the back of the room. A few weeks later, I saw a photo of Dennis' friend in the newspaper. It was Charles Manson!
We were about to leave on a short tour, but the record wasn't finished, and the natives at the label were getting restless. We decided to take the tapes with us and work on them in Chicago and New York. We played a couple of mid west concerts, then had a week off in Chicago before heading to New York. We were in Chicago working on the record when I ran into my old friend Ken Nordine in the studio lounge. Timing truly is everything! He agreed to come in and riff on tape, which he did brilliantly! Ken is a true genius, a legend with a golden voice. This was cutting edge stuff at the time. A Jazz poet with a rock band? Almost unheard of in 1967. New York was great. We had two fantastic nights at Fillmore East. It was the best the band ever sounded. Jeffrey's vocal blend with David and me was strong, he and Michael were killing it on bass and drums, and David and I were on fire! We were feeling good. We were mixing the record at The Record Plant, and were excited to be working in a state of the art studio with Chris Huston and Eddie Kramer doing the mix. As we neared the end of mixing though, I repeatedly felt that I was listening to a work in progress, not a finished recording. I still feel that way today. H.P. Lovecraft II has some incredible and innovative moments, but if the label hadn't been pushing so hard for product, it would have been a very different, and more exciting record. All I can say is, I wish we'd had more time.
The Last Gasp...We were living in California, more or less out of touch with our management in Chicago, and not getting along. Bill Graham was expressing interest in managing the group, but we were still under contract. I had been loyal to George Badonsky (our original manager), but was beginning to see that things weren't working and couldn't continue much longer with the current set up. We were gaining in popularity, playing larger venues, and our business was more and more centered on the west coast. With all the touring, and the addition of Jeffrey, we had become a very good live band, but off stage was another matter. The younger guys were partying hard most of the time, and David wasn't in a good place. I think he felt unappreciated because we hadn't recorded one of his devotional songs. This weighed on him, as well as the fact that everybody else in the group got high. David was living in the band house with the younger guys, and I'm sure was feeling a bit like a fish out of water. At this point I was spending more time with my friends than with the guys in the band. They had a large house with a pool that soon became party central. I was living quietly in Mill Valley with my wife, spending time with friends, writing, smoking weed, and tripping in the woods. I should have been paying more attention. We were in the middle of booking a summer tour that included a concert in Hawaii with Jimi Hendrix, and an appearance at The Woodstock Festival, when I got the call. It was Bill (Wlillem) Kenect our crew chief in a panic. Apparently David had been dosed with something (to this day, I don't know with what), had experienced a complete meltdown, and demanded to be driven immediately to the airport where he boarded a plane and returned to Chicago. Once there, he moved in with his parents and refused all contact with anyone connected with the band for over a year! David eventually returned to Northwestern University where he obtained a masters degree in music. This is the first time the real story of H.P. Lovecraft has been told. There have been a number of accounts in print about the demise of the group, but this is the first time the actual unvarnished and unspun truth has been revealed. I'm now 72 years old and have read a fair amount over the years concerning our history. I've been amazed (that there's still interest, thank you) and amused, and yes, sometimes hurt by things people have said. Some true, some not. In past interviews I've avoided certain subjects out of respect for peoples privacy, and not wanting to rock the boat by challenging some of their stories, but I'm now at a place in life where I want the full story without the spin to be known. This is it.
Aftermath...I was devastated! I knew there were problems, but had no idea things had gotten so bad. I knew it was over when David refused all our attempts to make contact with him. Replace him and move on? Ridiculous! Nobody could replace David! Eventually I took a job as a booking agent. I was burned out from the road and all that had happened, and needed a rest from being a band leader.
We had been back in Chicago almost a year when I got a call from Bill Graham. He had a plan. He invited me to come to San Francisco for the weekend. As it turned out, Bill was starting a management company and wanted Lovercraft to be his first client! Woah! He advised me to get a lawyer and start looking for musicians, and that he'd advance any necessary monies to get things started! I told him the same thing I'd been saying all along...simply that H.P.Lovecraft was David and Me! Bill agreed with this assment, and not only that, he called David and David took the call! I wasn't present for the conversation, but the next thing I knew, David was back and we were putting a band together! I approached Bill Traut (our former manager) who was also a music business attorney, to handle contracts and negotiations, and we went looking for a record deal. A short time later Bill and I flew to L.A. and I signed a whopper of a deal with Warner Reprise. The contract allowed enough money to hire just about any musician available...it was to be a "super group" built around me and David! We had total label support, Bill Graham as a manager, and access to the best musicians money could buy! What could be better? I was in charge of putting the band together while David continued working on his masters degree. We started with Michael Tegza (our original drummer), and built the band from there. It sounds perfect right? Not quite. Flash forward to departure day. We're on our way to California and our new digs, (a beautiful spanish mansion with pool on 160 forested acres, complete with a large wood paneled room with a fireplace to rehearse the band). I'd come a couple of days ahead to insure that everything was in place. Time to go to work. Everyone arrived right on time. Everyone but David! I mentioned earlier that I'd signed the record deal. This is relevant because as band leader, I was contractually responsible to deliver the agreed upon personnel...David! We tried everything to change his mind, including a substantial cash bonus, but nothing could persuade him. Years later he released a CD of devotional music (In Dust I Sing) dedicated to his Guru Meher Babba. He never performed with a contemporary rock group again.
I attempted to salvage what was left of the group, but without David it wasn't the same. Other people were brought in, there was a lot of money on the table, and the infighting began. Ego and power became the thing, People were buying new cars, packin' their noses, and livin' the life. Somewhere along the way the music got lost, and I left the group. They made a record for Reprise "Lovecraft in the Valley of the Moon" that bore no resemblance to the music of the original band, and that was that. The label lost interest, the record didn't sell, and the band broke up. That's the story.
Almost fifty years have passed since H.P.Lovecraft took the stage. The band only existed for three years, but what a time it was!
Addendum...A few attempts were made to capitalize on the name and success of H.P. Lovecraft. The name was used, a couple of records were released, but other than that, nothing was similar...it was just business.
You’re familiar with the term ‘binge viewing”, but you may need to do some “binge listening” to fully absorb this mammoth triple album/double CD (the CD contains extended versions) from the Scandinavian psychedelic supergroup that has benefited from participation of over five dozen different musicians across its decade-long existence. To mark their 20th release, Scott Heller and the improvisational Øresund Space Collective have edited numerous hours of tapes recorded in Copenhagen back in October 2014 down to the more manageable, yet still daunting 2½ hours presented across theselengthy jams, several exceeding 20 minutes and a monstrous 45-minute finale that’s practically an entire album unto itself.
‘Ride To Valhalla’ kicks things into overdrive, with an energetic blast of space rock. Simply strap on your jet pack and set the phasers on stun – it’s going to be a bumpy “ride” across the universe “to Valhalla”. Supercharged drumming, headswirling synth action, throbbing basslines...they’re all here in abundance. Toss in some sweltering, wah-wah guitarlines, serpentining violins and you’re in for a hell of a journey to the infinite ... and beyond.
Following this 20-minute take-off, ‘Juggle the Juice’ is one of two experimental sound collages that break up the sonic assault on the senses. Not necessarily to everyone’s taste, the percolating synths and tribal skinpounding certainly acted as a sonic sorbet for me to catch my breath and regain my senses to prepare for the 20-minute ‘Digestive Raga’ (expanded to a full half hour on the CD set). Pure sonic bliss awaits fans of sitar loveliness, as this contemplative naval-gazer floats effortlessly around the room, soothing away the day’s transgressions, tensions, and worries. Just sit back, close your eyes, and breathe deeply as its medicinal comfort envelops your body and transports you to another plane of existence, where pain and suffering have vanished and marshmallow clouds soar by, wrapping you in a mushroomed haze of warmth and inner beauty. Aaaahhhhhhh....
Fans of Welsh psych monsters Man will freak out (in a good way!) to the beloved tribute ‘The MAN from Wales’, a swarming, throbbing blur of tasty guitar licks (a MAN specialty), swirling keyboards, and hard-driving rhythms. To paraphrase the masters, “Yes, we like it here now and we are settling in quite comfortably”! ‘Bon Voyage’ is another extemporaneous detour, featuring a bunch of speak and spell type toys (think Experimental Audio Research’s Data Rape album), we’re welcomed to sit back and enjoy another raga, this one for the mysterious Jerry G. It all begins with a weeping violin that reminded me of the more countrified selections on The KLF’s Chill Out album, and then brought in some heady sitar embellishments to transport me to another universe inside my head. Breathless...and endlessly fascinating! Country raga?!? Like, way grooovy, MAN! I can almost feel my face melting off my head!
Now about that 45-minute album, er, song that makes up the third LP in the set (and most of disk 2): Boy Howdy! I can almost guarantee you’ll stumble a few times whilst attempting to take those ’20 Steps Towards The Invisible Door’, but it’ll be an enjoyable trip along the way. The band toss everything in their arsenal into this bad boy, from throbbing gristle to bubbling cauldrons of medicated goo, all in search of the lost chord that tethers us to this universe and keeps us from falling though that “invisible door” to the worlds that lie on the other side. While almost impossible to experience in a single setting without venturing off the deep end, pace yourself and sit back and enjoy the ride. Not since The Bevis Frond’ssimilar experiment in album-long songs (White Numbers’ ‘Homemade Traditional Electric Jam’) have we been so impressed that a band could sustain the momentum without losing the plot a few times, but OSC manage to keep their feet on the ground and their (and your) heads in the clouds. A fascinating climax to an incredible journey to the infinite...and beyond.
Colin Blunstone is, of course, the lead vocalist of The Zombies: the British Invasion band who exploded onto the scene in the mid-1960s with their timeless early singles “She’s Not There” and “Tell Her No,” and later recorded one of the most definitive and brilliant albums of the latter part of the decade via the 1968 masterpiece Odessey and Oracle. The Zombies’ ‘60s catalog is next to flawless and has proven to be incredibly durable.
What’s less known about Blunstone is that, after The Zombies broke up in the late ‘60s, he went on to form a solo career. The three albums he released between 1971-4: One Year, Ennismore, and Journey are particularly strong works that are under-appreciated and likely would find favor from any Zombies fan who has yet to hear them.
Blunstone continues to lead an active life in music. Since 2003 he has released over a handful of new studio albums, both as a solo artist and a member of the reformed Zombies. Tours and subsequent live albums have been part of this recent campaign, as well.
Over an email exchange I had the opportunity to ask Blunstone about subjects such as his “breathy” vocal style, the Zombies’ “nice boys” image, his memories of recording Odessey and Oracle, his launching of his solo career at the same time that Zombies bandmate and longtime partner Rod Argent started his own group Argent, what it feels like to be gigging at age 70, what music he’s listening to these days, etc.
It’s Psychedelic, Baby: The story goes that The Zombies didn’t intend to make a real go of being a band until you won a talent contest, which led to a recording contract. Is this how you remember it? Prior to the contest, were you thinking of the band as a temporary venture or did you have your sights set on a career in music at that stage?
Colin Blunstone: Prior to winning a big rock competition in 1964 The Zombies were a very young local band with a growing but still small local fan base. It was only after we won that I think we dared to wonder if we could ever be a full time professional band. We all remember what happened after the competition differently. I don't think winning the competition automatically got us a recording contract with Decca but indirectly it led to us being introduced to our first producer Ken Jones who managed to sign us to Decca.
IPB: The Zombies 1960s material is (rightfully) noted for its remarkable consistency in quality. Did the band write some songs that never got recorded, or recorded but still never released?
CB: Originally there were songs that we recorded that weren't released but when our boxed set was released in the late 90's I think everything we ever recorded in the studio and live on the BBC was included. There was however one demo of us playing The Temptation's "My Girl" that was never found. Because we travelled to the States often we were very aware that The Temptations had had a big hit with this tune although it hadn't been a hit in the U.K. In the end Otis Redding beat us to it with his fine cover of The Temptations original and somehow our demo was lost forever.
IPB: What other music were you and the rest of the band listening to during The Zombies’ 1960s era?
CB: The Zombies always listened to a very wide spectrum of music in the early 60's. From classical music to modern jazz and onto the blues as wells the early greats of Rock 'n' Roll, like Elvis, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard. Later when The Beatles started to be successful I remember us being very impressed with everything that they did, too.
IPB: What were the 1960s Zombies like as a live band, compared to how you came off on recordings? How do you remember audiences’ reactions to your concerts from then? What memories do you have of touring experiences from those times?
CB: I think we were musically we sounded tougher when performing live, more dynamic and energised than we did on record. It was always a great disappointment to us all that so much of the excitement of our early recordings seemed to be lost in the final stages of mixing our records. Unfortunately we were never allowed to be present when those early tracks were mixed.Audience reactions to any successful band in the sixties was very full on and it was the same for us. Screaming and hysteria were the norm. It was often very hard to actually hear the band and once or twice the audience reaction was so intense and out of control it got quite scary!!Touring was probably more demanding then than it is now as commercial air travel was in its infancy and the whole business of bands regularly touring internationally was a new phenomenon. On the other hand artists oftener performed as one of a group of 14 or 15 other artists in a "package tour" which usually meant they were only required to play 2 or 3 songs each evening.
IPB: What memories do you have of The Zombies’ participation in Otto Preminger’s 1965 film Bunny Lake is Missing?
CB: Otto Preminger was a very demanding and aggressive man. He was very tough on the film crew and his staff but it didn't really work with us as we didn't really mind if we were included in the film or not. When he realised that he couldn't bully us he quietened down and was much more reasonable. I wish we had had more time to work on the songs. We were asked to write and record three new songs in about 10 days. If we'd had more time I think we could have come up with stronger material.
IPB: The Zombies’ image in the 1960s was that of a clean-cut, scholastic sort of group of young men - scholarly “nice boys.” Do you think this might have kept some potential fans from giving the group attention, because at the time those listeners were actively seeking out acts who came across as more anti-establishment?
CB: I remember very early on visiting Decca's press department and talking very briefly about some kind of approach to image. What could we say? We were mostly about 19 and just out of school and so the scholarly nice boy image began and so at a time when the public wanted bad boys, pirates and brigands we were presented as the absolute opposite. It was an unmitigated disaster and I sometimes think the damage done all those years ago still follows around today.
IPB: The band recorded Odessey and Oracle at a time when it had already decided to break up after it was done. What was the morale like for the group during the making of the album, and what were your personal thoughts on it at the time? Did you see it then as having the potential to become a classic?
CB: We all remember this differently. I definitely didn't presume the band would break up after recording Odessey and Oracle. I could never have given the commitment and energy to the project if I already knew the band was breaking up. I thought the morale in the band was good especially at the beginning although maybe the atmosphere did deteriorate a bit later on. It's very hard to judge your own work but I thought we had done the best work that we were capable of. At a time when singles were all important we were all crushed when "Care Of Cell 44" was released and didn't make the charts. I think only time decides which albums will become classics. I was probably more concerned with day to day survival than creating a classic at the time.
IPB: After the recording of Odessey and Oracle, you went to work for an insurance firm. What was that period in your life like? At the time did you view that move as temporary, believing you would eventually get back to your career in music? Please describe just exactly how you came to return to making music.
CB: When The Zombies finished the three non-writers were absolutely broke and all three of us had to quickly get a job. I simply phoned an employment agency and it happened they had a vacancy in a big London insurance company. It was a very busy company and fortunately the intensity of the work didn't allow me to dwell on the sadness of losing the band. In fact I was so devastated by the ending of the band that I wasn't sure I ever wanted to return to the music business. For some time it looked as though Odessey And Oracle would not even be released in the U.S. but because of the hard work and vision of Al Kooper it was eventually released and “Time Of The Season” went on to be a huge hit though it was never a hit in the U.K. Gradually producers and record companies began making me offers to return to the business and after some time I started doing some evening sessions with producer Mike Hurst (who had just recorded the early Cat Stevens records) though I still kept my day job. Through a series of strange decisions it was decided to release a re-recording of The Zombies first hit "She's Not There" under the pseudonym of Neil MacArthur and when it was a small hit I found myself back in the music business.
IPB: Your vocal work is often praised and noted for its uniqueness, and is routinely referred to as “breathy.” Are you comfortable with that description of it, and has your singing style ever been subjected to criticism, to your knowledge?
CB: I don't generally read reviews but I do think my vocals are quite recognisable. I practice vocal exercises everyday on the road which has helped me keep my vocal range and work constantly on my phrasing always looking for a way to improve a performance. I'm sure my singing style has been criticised at some time but as I never read reviews I wouldn't know. I prefer to talk songs through with musicians, arrangers and producers as I strive to make the most out of each song.
IPB: In the 1970s you launched a solo career at the same time that Rod Argent founded Argent. The two acts were releasing albums at the same time. What did you think of Argent, and did you and Rod communicate much about your respective post-Zombies careers through that era?
CB: I was a huge fan of Argent. I went to some of their earliest rehearsals and was amazed and excited by their songwriting and playing. They actually played on my first two solo albums but as they became ever more successful they were unable to record with me after that. I was very much involved with Rod at the time as he co - produced my first 2 solo albums and often wrote songs for my solo albums after that.
IPB: As you developed your career as a solo artist, how did that feel in relation to your experience as a member of a band? Was there more pressure on you then, and/or did you feel that you had more freedom?
CB: There are very subtle differences between being a member of a band and being a solo singer but they all add up to a totally different experience. Of course you do have far more freedom of choice but at the end of the day success or failure rests squarely on your shoulders alone.
IPB: Describe how you and Rod Argent came to agree to start working together again, beginning with the Out of the Shadows album in 2003.
CB: I had six concerts coming up and a keyboard player who had a habit of not turning up. On a whim I decided to ask Rod if he was interested in playing "live" again and was quite surprised when he said he was although he emphasised he would only want to do these specific six concerts. In the end we had such good fun that we just kept going and have now been playing together in this incarnation of the band for over 16 years. Rod already had some basic tracks recorded for a possible new album and we finished these tracks off and added a couple of new songs and that became our new first album (Out Of The Shadows) with this incarnation of the band.
IPB: You have continued to release new music over the last few years, both with the current version of The Zombies and as a solo artist. How does the experience of making these albums compare to recording with the 1960s Zombies and the earlier phases of your solo career?
CB: The music business has changed out of all recognition since the 60's and is still changing day by day. Many of the medium and small sized record companies have disappeared along with much of the retail side of the business. The internet revolution has meant many people prefer to download or stream their music rather than buy CDs (this being one of the main reasons there are fewer and fewer record companies) leaving many artists to finance and arrange recording sessions, artwork, promotion and marketing for themselves. Of course these extra responsibilities also bring much more artistic freedom but an artist today certainly has far more responsibilities and with that far more decisions to make than they ever used to have.
IPB: What motivates you to continue making new music at this point?
CB: I can only think of my career in the music business in terms of making new music. Merely performing old material doesn't motivate me at all.
IPB: How does it feel to be gigging at this stage of life?
CB: I never expected to be still performing live on stage at this time in my life so it's come as a huge but very pleasant surprise. I think The Zombies are performing better than ever and there is a feeling in the band that while we will keeping, writing, recording and touring for as long as we are physically able to.
IPB: What other music are you listening to these days? Are there any contemporary acts who you like especially?
CB: I still listen to a very wide spectrum of music although I do find myself returning to my old favourite performers like Stevie Wonder, and Joni Mitchell.I hear many very good new singer songwriters. I liked the Sonic Executives last record and we've just finished touring with a great new band called Josh Flowers and The Wild who are brilliant!
The Velvet Underground - The Complete Matrix Tapes (Universal Music Enterprises, 2015)
Having seen The Velvet Underground many times, mostly at The Second Fret in Philadelphia. And with that in mind, I’d like to propose that they were one of those bands who’s work always seemed to be not so much in flux, more that it was constantly being reworked, reshaped, and revitalized. And that’s proven true here on The Matrix Tapes, a staggering four disc collection that primarily focuses on two nights at The Matrix [a club opened by The Jefferson Airplane’s Marty Balin] on November 26th and 27th of 1969 ... captured at both The Matrix and The Family Dog venues on a four track recorder.
This was not the first time The Velvet Underground found themselves in California, a land they disdained, preferring the gritty streets of the east coast. Nevertheless, their first venture into the land of sun and surf was with Andy Warhol’s sojourn back in May of 1966, where it’s been documented that they were received rather poorly, and nearly demolished the home that had been provided for them.
One could spend a lifetime listening to all of these tracks before deciding on which versions are best, and perhaps compiling a personal favorites collection from this presentation. Remember, this was lo-fi at it’s inception, this was when shows were what we called ‘Happenings’, this was where the audience was as involved as the artists, and I’m sure that anyone who was there for even one of the eighteen residency dates still remembers it as if it happened yesterday. "Sister Ray" extends into thirty plus minute mark, with all of the others being jams of music, distortion, and graphic lustful fascination, where the band finds a groove, locks into it, and doesn’t let go.
Yes, nearly all of this material has been released in one fashion or another over the years, with some being much better than others ... though I doubt that there’s much room for improvement here, where the entire package has been digitally remastered and presented as a single unit of astonishment.
The Order of Israfel has suddenly appeared in Swedish Gothenburg only three years ago, and quartet was motivated enough that it took only two years to finish their debut album Wisdom which helped them to get a deal with Napalm Records. The band demonstrates all their best performing catchy, heavy and diverse doom music. Their frontman Tom Sutton gained experience playing with Japanese Church of Misery and local heavy metal band Night Viper (just to name the few) as Order’ bass guitarist enveloped his skills in DoomDogs band. This enthusiastic duet has recruited Staffan Björck (guitars) and Hans Lilja (drums), and the lineup was finally formed. As The Order of Israfel returned from another tour with Pentagram, we contacted Tom to ask him a few vital and actual questions.
Hello Tom! How are you? How did the tour with Pentagram go?
Really good! It was our second tour with them, so it feels really normal now to hang out with them and share a stage with them. We learned so much on the first tour about playing bigger stages and venues, and now it actually feels most natural to play those size places for us. We had a great time. And Hammer Of Doom festival was a big highlight.
So I need to ask you what’s subjective difference when you play on stage in a small dark club or when you're standing before the crowd on big festival?
It's hard to describe, but there's something big in our music, and it feels better to have the space to let that out somehow. It could be something as simple as the fact that we've gotten used to being able to move around on stage. But yeah, I think the epic nature of the songs feels better on a big stage somehow. I remember the first time we played a bigger stage, it was the Gothenburg Sound Festival here in Gothenburg, and I felt really uncomfortable, actually. This band and this style of music feels really personal to me, and it felt weird to be in front of a 'regular' metal audience. Later, we played Sweden Rock right after the first Pentagram tour, and felt totally at home there, so that shows you how we progressed, and how playing on bigger stages really helped us get better at it.
The Order’s page shows that you already had 2 new demo tracks in July, what’s your progress now? Can you foretell when second album will be ready?
Yup! We're recording in January, and the plan is to have it out in May. The songs are pretty much done. We're just in the process of putting in the details now. Adding as much guitar action as possible. He he! We've demoed four of the tracks, and we'll do the next four soon. We're getting really excited to record. The studio's in this spooky old house in Gothenburg, and it'll be the middle of Winter, so the atmosphere will be just right. The artwork is under way now too. It's all coming together! I know that you already played new songs during previous tours and gigs, how many of it in your set now? And do you play cover-songs? We've done three of the new songs live now. On the recent Pentagram tour, we did a new song called 'The Red Robes'. It felt great, actually. It can take some time to get comfortable with a new song live, but this one felt great straight away. We love it. The only cover song we've ever done was 'Solitude' by Candlemass. We did it at our second ever gig along with Mappe from Candlemass on guitar and Chritus from Lord Vicar/Goatess/ex-Saint Vitus/ex-Terra Firma on vocals. That was a mind-bender! We haven't done any covers since then. I've got a lot of material, so it's hard to put time towards cover songs right now.
Almost all songs from the “Wisdom” album were done by you. How do you work with the band over new tracks? And may your listeners expect some cardinal changes in your sound?
All the songs for the next album are again me, but you'll hear a lot more of Staffan, the other guitarist, in these songs. He's so good at making guitar harmonies. He makes things that I would never think of. And he's made an intro for one song and the outro for another. Another big difference is that with the first album, I had everything demoed with a drum machine before we even formed the band. I guess there's more input from everyone this time on arrangements. It feels good! Will it be different? I think it'll have its own personality, but will still totally sound like us.
Well, how does Staffan’s manner of songs writing differ from yours?
Well, he's working on a new band right now, so you'll hear for yourself soon if you check it out. It's kinda quirky. Very influenced by the old Swedish band, November. He really likes chords and notes that are less obvious, so that helps with building surprises and interesting things into songs. He's good with chords in general, actually. I learned to play guitar by playing Metallica, Sepultura and Black Sabbath, so I tend to basically stick to single notes and power chords. Staffan helps to make songs sound a bit more sophisticated sometimes.
The Order plays straightforward old school doom rock/doom metal, and your stuff sounds bloody powerful and has rough energy. Don’t you ever think about enrichment of your sound with moog, melotron or hammond to make some songs more atmospheric?
Yeah, I used an organ on a couple of songs I demoed about 12 years ago, but didn't use any keys on the songs on the album. There's gonna be quite a lot of different instrumentation on the second album. We're working it all out now. I was planning a keyboard intro for this next album, but then I had another idea, and everyone voted for that instead, so we'll see how that turns out. I love all those extras, though. The bells and whistles. I think it adds so much.
Lyrics of first albums are straightforward as music – who does influence onto you as a lyrics author? And what will you prepare for next album?
Hmmmmm, good question. If you look at the first songs I ever wrote, it comes across a bit like Entombed lyrics with quite a lot of word plays and a sense of humour to it. These days, I don't know. I think the lyrics are not really influenced by anyone in particular. It's really just how I write. I really admire how the language of the lyrics and song titles of Reverend Bizarre are so unified in flavour. Nothing feels out of place with the rest. I guess I aspire to achieving the same thing.
How does it feel now a year after release of “Wisdom” album – all this recognition, positive interviews, feedback on your shows? What did this year with The Order give you?
It feels amazing, actually! The idea for the band, and the songs were such a personal thing to me that to have finally put it out and received such a good reaction feels really good. It was kinda scary, y'know? What if after all these years of working on this stuff by myself, it totally sucked? And now, after our third tour and preparing for our second album, I've had a chance to look at everything and really appreciate how well things have gone. I mean, to play at Hammer Of Doom the same day as Candlemass, 40 Watt Sun, and My Dying Bride....that felt great. Two tours with Pentagram....we feel very fortunate.
I think that sometimes it’s enough for a good band to hold on for years and release albums from time to time, yet it works not always. How do you think what keep high status of mentioned above bands even now when they don’t exist anymore? It’s a kind of metaphysical questions. Well, that's the big question, isn't it? What makes a band mean more to people than others? There's a lot to it, I guess. I would say that being at the birth of a genre or a movement helps a band achieve that kind of legendary status. Would St. Vitus be as special to people if they had only appeared in the last five years? Of course not. There's a lot of value attached to doing it first. And some bands age better than others, I guess. 'Raining Blood' will never sound out of date, but 'I Am The Law' definitely feels more a product of its time.
How do you see future perspectives of The Order Of Israfel? You have strong songs, strong lineup and strong label besides you, it looks like a straight road if you have aim to take a place alongside stoner/doom metal legends.
Wow! Thank you! I mean, of course we would love that. We're thinking long-term, y'know. The bands we all look up to the most built their place in the world over years and decades, and we know that there's no need to hurry. I have certainly said that with Cathedral, Reverend Bizarre and The Gates Of Slumber all gone now that we would love to be a bit of a light in the dark for those who miss those bands. I certainly miss those bands! Anyway, we'll keep pushing ourselves to write songs that mean something to us, and to get better and better both live and in the studio.
You work with big label, does it change borders of your artistic freedom? Does it really change commercial positions of the band?
It's been wonderful, actually. I can't say enough good things about Napalm Records. They haven't tried to push us around in any way. Sometimes they suggest things, but if we say no, they just accept it totally. And they're so organised. They do everything they say they will do when they say they'll do it. I never expected any labels outside specialist doom metal labels to really be interested in us, and I was a bit hesitant to go outside that circle, but Napalm have been perfect for us. Yeah, I would say that we've had more exposure than we would have on a smaller label.
Do you plan to release next album with Napalm Records again?
Absolutely. There have been almost no downsides to working with them. And they seem to genuinely care about us even though we're not obvious hit material.
Tom, you also did play with Church of Misery, can you tell about this experience?
Well, that was the beginning of this whole journey for me, really. My first tour, my first album recording, the first band I was ever in that people cared about. It was HUGE for me. I loved it. The day they told me I got the job was probably the happiest day of my life, seriously. I'll be grateful as long as I'm alive for that experience. It was a supremely fun band to play live with. Just so much energy. And really, a massive learning experience in terms of my guitar playing too. I'm still in touch with Tatsu, and we might tour with them some day. We have the same booking agent now. I actually saw them live last year for the first time since before I joined the band, and it was fucking killer. It really reminded me why people love that band so much. And I've heard the new album actually. Muahahaha!!
Church of Misery are known not only because of their cool riffs but also with Tatsu passion to sing stories of serial killers, didn't you discuss this topic with him? And didn't you try to persuade him to sing about another maniac or to sing about another topic?
Though I believe it’s quite impossible. Yeah, a little bit. I would read his serial killer books when I was at his place. I wrote the lyrics for three songs on 'Houses Of The Unholy', so I had to do my homework. Ha! No, I never tried to convince him to do songs about anything else. I think that the topic helps make them unique, and to be honest, I don't think he has anything else he's burning to put into song form. It's perfect for the band, I think. All the lyrics for the new album were written by Scott Carlsson, so it's cool to hear his take on what Church Of Misery lyrics should be. Okay, Tom, thank you very much for your time and the opportunity to ask you these questions. I wish you and other brothers of The Order all the best on your way to next album. Good luck and long live The Order of Israfel! Thanks so much! Finally getting the chance to do a band I've been writing songs for and planning in my head since about 2002 is a dream come true. As I said, we're recording the next album in January, and it'll be out around May, so hopefully we can talk again around then. Cheers!