The Cosmic Dead | Interview | New Album, ‘Infinite Peaks’

Uncategorized May 10, 2024

The Cosmic Dead | Interview | New Album, ‘Infinite Peaks’

‘Infinite Peaks’ is the ninth full-length album from The Cosmic Dead, the Glasgow-based sonic explorers known for their otherworldly sounds.

The album consists of two extended tracks that were captured and mixed at Glasgow’s 16 Ohm Recording Studio. The Cosmic Dead has shifted shapes since their debut in 2010, but at the heart of the current lineup is the powerhouse rhythm section of Tommy Duffin and Omar Aborida. Their pulsating energy lays the foundation for Luigi Pasquini’s manic Italo-synth waves and Calum Calderwood’s electrifying, genre-defying fiddle work, sending the band into the stratosphere.

Photo by Oculus Sinistra

“The Cosmic Dead has always been an exploration of music in a live sense”

‘Infinite Peaks’ marks your ninth full-length album. How has your approach to creating music evolved since your earlier releases, and what can listeners expect from this latest offering?

The story of this band has hovered somewhere between evolution and devolution. From the beginning of my involvement, we often found musical ideas in improvisation, which we would latch on to and push to an extreme—whether through repetition, speed, or volume. An example of that can be found in ‘Father Sky Mother Earth’ from the self-titled record, or ‘Easterfaust.’ Other times, we crafted a song in the mix, using outboard equipment and effects to create a twisting musical collage—such as in ‘Psych is Dead’ and ‘Eccie Bam Yass, E?.’ With ‘Infinite Peaks,’ you can hear elements of both approaches. This album also marks the first featuring Calum Calderwood on fiddle and Luigi Pasquini on synth, continuing the ‘Crater Creator’ sound, which first appeared on the 2021 ‘Intergalactic Connection’ split with our friends Giöbia.

We would likely still be enclosed in the rehearsal space if not for one cosmic collaborator—Gabriele Fiori, the head honcho of Heavy Psych Sounds, who also plays with the fantastic Black Rainbows. It was Gabe’s endless encouragement that led the band to record ‘Crater Creator.’ Without him and Heavy Psych Sounds, ‘Infinite Peaks’ might still be just a distant speck in the universe.

The album features two extended incantations. Could you tell us about the significance of these tracks and how they contribute to the overall narrative or atmosphere of the album?

‘Navigator #9’ is a song formed and fired in the kiln of Kozfest, a small festival held annually in Devon, a community manifestation of Kozmik Ken’s dream music festival, and one which instills the essence of the long-lost free festivals alongside a consistently brilliant curated music programme. This song is the amalgamation of three ideas presented to the crowd as part of our 2022 Kozfest set. Initially, these ideas were not connected, but if there’s anything we learned from living in perpetual winter, it’s persistence, and we managed to present them as one piece of music played live in the studio. ‘Space Mountain’ was a jam, our soundcheck of sorts that got out of hand in the way that Cosmic Dead soundchecks often tend to descend toward. This soundcheck was one of the great ones, and I guess we were lucky that all the sounds were locked in. We often try to keep some element of freedom in our recordings, a direct link to the time and place we were in.

Recording at Glasgow’s 16 Ohm Recording Studio must have influenced the album’s sound and vibe. Can you describe the studio environment?

16 Ohm is a home away from home for us, especially for our drummer Tommy Duffin, who runs the studio and engineered the album recordings. We’re a band with three sound engineers and a psychologist [insert joke here]. Luigi, who now plays synth, had recorded our previous five albums in various non-studio locations, ranging from Highland garages (Rainbowhead, Easterfaust, EBYE?), Sardinian kitchens (‘Psych Is Dead’), to our dilapidated rehearsal space (‘Scottish Space Race’). It was actually a call from Frank Popp that led us to finally enter a regular recording studio after so many excursions—Frank asked us to record a cover of his song ‘The Thing Demands,’ and 16 Ohm beckoned. Finally, we entered a place where almost everything we required was already there!

Fast forward to January 2023, we entered the studio to record what would become ‘Infinite Peaks.’ The live room at 16 Ohm is just the right size for jamming out, while still being close enough to stay connected and locked in, which, aside from being extremely loud, is completely vital for our music to gel and flow. It was this combination of equipment, convenience, dimensionality, and Tommy’s simultaneous skills as both engineer and drummer that crafted the sound of ‘Infinite Peaks,’ a sound that Tommy and I spent considerable time mixing throughout 2023.

Photo by Oculus Sinistra

The Cosmic Dead is known for its unique blend of psychedelic, space rock, and krautrock elements. How do you maintain this distinctive sound?

The Cosmic Dead has always been an exploration of music in a live sense. We were never able to craft a song that is fixed; each different incarnation of the band has started with a new jam, abandoning what came before to venture into the sound of the collective musicians. A huge part of this process is listening to each other while playing freely. It’s really important to disconnect from the idea of playing instruments correctly in a technical sense so that we are free to follow the path of the music—to discover just how far it can go—and it’s never the same twice. Once that chemistry has been set, we venture out into the live setting where the audience becomes part of that collective. We draw from the energy around us and the location. It can lead to fantastic moments, and I feel extremely lucky to have been part of this cosmic roundabout ride, experiencing this shared visceral catharsis from inside the machine.

Could you take us through your songwriting and recording process for ‘Infinite Peaks’? How do you typically approach composing such expansive and immersive tracks?

Every time we get together to practice, soundcheck, or perform a show, we take the chance to improvise on a completely new idea that is conceptualized there in the moment between us. Elements of these improvisations often stay in our heads, and they reappear in the next jam, growing until, at some point, they become a repeating motif and then gradually develop into a song. Music with this approach has a fixed forward momentum, so we have to keep moving and develop the idea in the moment, each instrument playing a role in crafting the song. I guess a level of stamina is required, and it doesn’t always work if we venture off course or step off. Though in most cases, we will expend all our energy until we find a natural stopping point.

To translate this to the studio, we have to approach it exactly as we do in the rehearsal space—just with all the microphones placed and record enabled. Sometimes we go too far, and it’s 40 minutes or more, then in the mixing stage, we need to find a way to cut things down to a length that translates on vinyl. In a way, we are limited by the medium, which creates an opportunity to sculpt the music in the mixing stage. It’s not simply a case of adding a fade; we try to preserve the best moments and the flow or even create a new flow. It’s trial and error, and given the length of the tracks, it can be a long process, though it is enjoyable to venture back through the music without playing it!

“The music itself is a search—a trip into the unknown with only sound as the guide”

The album’s title suggests a sense of vastness and endless exploration. How does this theme manifest throughout the music?

The music itself is a search—a trip into the unknown with only sound as the guide. It’s a hunt for those elusive peaks, and this title seemed to best fit the music and the momentum of the band. Playing music this way is a trip, something that lets you step off and meditate. It can be both introspective and liberating in a shared sense. The music is a manifestation of that, and it’s this departure from reality that keeps the band jamming on, finding new ground. Although aspects of life have slowed us down in the last few years, there is a feeling of reinvigoration that comes with ‘Infinite Peaks.’ The hunt is back on, and the next step is to step off again into the cosmic unknown.

There was also a challenge to present this music with artwork, and for that, we approached Luke Oram, with whom I had previously worked to create the astounding cover for Dead Otter’s ‘Bridge of Weird.’ We sent him the music alongside a suitably sci-fi brief, and we were all taken aback by the cover he presented and the detail with which it has been rendered. This really has to be seen on the vinyl edition, and I would absolutely recommend Luke for any design work—be it space or otherwise.

Photo by Daniel Maderstein

Are you planning to go on tour?

Yes, there are plans in place to tour Europe this autumn. We are extremely grateful to Heavy Psych Sounds, who are working alongside us to promote the album and book the tour. It’s really exciting for us to present our configuration to European stages again, having had to cancel our last planned tour in 2020. Since then, the backward political complication of Brexit has taken hold, and now, with some planning in place, it looks like we can finally return. Last year, we played one concert outside the UK, in Nuremberg, which was made possible by its cultural connection with Glasgow as twin cities. It was such a pleasure to travel over there, and we re-ignited our sense of The Cosmic Dead as an international band, where the place lends itself to the music and offers each audience a new experience.

Klemen Breznikar

Headline photo: Oculus Sinistra

The Cosmic Dead Official Website / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Bandcamp
Heavy Psych Sounds Official Website / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Bandcamp / YouTube

‘Space Mountain Part II: High Country’ by The Cosmic Dead | New Album, ‘Infinite Peaks’

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