Thursday, January 17, 2008
Hey readers! A new feature being introduced today which will be a recurring item is "10 Questions." I've concocted dozens and select them at random for the chosen person.
This week's respondent is Tony Miller, (pictured), of psych-pop band Ideal Free Distribution.
1. In ten words-or less, define "psychedelic music."
Psychedelic music is a full aural experience that transcends the typical words/poetry with musical backing format.
2. What is the most psychedelic instrument, why?
You already know my answer to this one Valis…It’s hands down the Mellotron. That beautiful tape-sampling instrument birthed from Birmingham, England (but based on the American Chamberlain organ) has a magical warbly, latent, and often haunted sound that adds instant atmosphere so important in psych music. The Hammond organ/Leslie cabinet combo is right up there too. The only other instrument that had a dedicated psych sound to me is the sitar and it has to be used sparingly or it becomes cliché.
3. Favorite psychedelic album of all time?
Geez man…I really don’t know if I can do that. I discover a new hidden gem every week it seems. Okay, let’s think about this…I have tons of favorite psych artist, but as far as a complete gem of an album I guess there’s only a few that really stand out for me. If I’m in a baroque/pop/psych mood, Zombies Oydssey and Oracle and the Bee Gees First are tied for #1 for me. If I’m feeling a bit edgier, I might opt for a little July – still pop but darker, grittier, and a production sound that I go for every time I record – or ‘Piper at the Gates…’ if I have enough weed to keep me focused. Right now in my head, by the best definitions of my favorite type of psych, my favorite complete album would be Love, Forever Changes – utter magic.
4. Roky or Syd, why?
I love what Roky has done and I grow to appreciate his work more every day, but Syd…Syd made me re-evaluate music and had the biggest effect on how I think about music as art specifically with songwriting, atmospherics, and guitar playing. Though both had similar life circumstances with creative periods cut way too short, Syd did the most for me.
5. Alice In Wonderland or The Wind In The Willows?
I don’t think of either of these as psychedelic. It’s weird when you grow up with something it just seems normal no matter how left of center others consider it. Much of what’s considered outsider psychedelic music is regular stuff to me (which makes me find non-psych boring). I remember hearing songs from ‘Her Satanic Majesties...’, 13th Floor Elevators, psych era Beatles, and many others on our local radio station when I was a kid (thank you WCBL). It just seemed normal. Wait, what the hell was my point…oh yeah, Wind in the Willows would be my choice.
6. What psychedelic album do you wish more people knew about?
Though it might be a little on the light side of psychadelia, Del Shannon’s ‘Home and Away’ is a lost treasure that every one should hear. It was the mastermind of Andrew Loog Oldham – he wanted to produce his own version of Pet Sounds. After hearing Del’s cover of ‘Under My Thumb’ decided that he was the one who should bring it to life vocally.
From www.delshannon.com: “Del Shannon was touring Britain in late January and early February 1967 to promote his latest single "She" where, at the BBC Studios, he bumped into Andrew Loog Oldham, producer of the Rolling Stones. Oldham expressed how much he had loved Shannon's version of the Stones' "Under My Thumb" and wanted to record him. Shannon put an overseas call in to Liberty Records in Los Angeles and was told, "Yes, whatever the expense. Go cut with Andrew!"
The album was only recently released because the label lost interest in the whole baroque/pop/psych genre and put it on the shelf. John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page did some masterful session work on that album before there was any Led in their collective Zeppelins. Just a note to those who like Billy Nichols – ‘Would you Believe’ and ‘Home and Away’ have a very similar sound… Oldham was Nichols producer as well and Billy contributed a few songs to Del’s album due to the connection and love of Del’s older music.
7. What band, active today, most defines "psychedelic" to you?
I may be using “active” a little on the loose side due to this bands current status, but my pick would have to be My Bloody Valentine. According to Mr. Shields himself they are 75% finished with a new record. Provided it picks up where ‘Loveless’ left off, I’m sticking with them as the best example of modern psychedelia. Instruments and vocals fuse into one to create a dream-like sonic palate. That album completely engulfs me every time I listen to it. It is one of those complete albums that I talked about in Question 3. That’s one of my favorites too…so hard to choose.
I have to mention the Elephant 6 group of bands as well. Though all rooted in 60’s psych, I guess the Olivia Tremor Control is the most consistently psychedelic (but not fully active anymore). Admittedly though, most of their music is too far into the abstract realm for my pop sensibilities.
8. What album would you most like to cover in its entirety, why?
My Bloody Valentine, ‘Loveless’. Sonically this would be the most challenging and rewarding to try to recreate with my own vision. I would want to capture the same feeling while taking it a bit further vocally. It would be very very difficult though.
9. Top Ten Psychedelic Songs?
I had to quit overthinking this and just go with what came to mind:
1. Beatles - Tomorrow Never Knows
2. Pink Floyd – See Emily Play
3. My Bloody Valentine –I Only Said
4. Rolling Stones – 2000 Light Years From Home/Paint it Black (can’t choose)
5. Syd Barret – Apples & Oranges
6. Forever Amber – The Dream Flies Back
7. July – Jolly Mary
8. Apples in Stereo - Strawberry Fire
9. The Creation – Tom Tom
10. Simply Saucer – Here Come the Cyborgs (Part 2)
10. Turn the tables, if you'd like, and ask me a question.
My opinion: In the 60s bands pushed each other creatively more so than I feel they do today. Everyone was trying to outdo each other with song-writing and sound production. As a result, we had so much more good psychedelic music (and every other genre). I have a feeling that today’s bands write in more isolation without striving for any goal in their art.
Do you agree? If so, elaborate based on your infinite knowledge of psychedelia. If not, what bands are doing this today?
Firstly, great question!
In the main I tend to disagree. Here’s why: I believe in the 60s- because it was new, there was no other place to look but to your peers for a creative push, it had never been done before. I think even the “Second Wave” of psychedelia in the 80s- the so-called ‘Paisley Underground’ in California and the concurrent psychedelic bands in the Northeast, (Fuzztones, Vipers, Plan 9, Mod Fun,); Milwaukee’s mighty Plasticland; along with globally-scattered scenes in Australia, e.g., the Hoodoo Gurus and Lime Spiders, Sweden’s Nomads, New Zealand’s Chills, Verlaines, and Tall Dwarfs, all looked to the 60s for inspiration. Plasticland is long on record as fully digesting the entire Pretty Things catalog. In the 90s and 00s we have bands looking back to this second wave for inspiration along with their peers. There’s just more depth and breadth to the genre. And even niches within the genre!
As an example, per your request, I’d point to the rich and vibrant neo-psychedelic scenes in:
Los Angeles (again!), with bands like the Quarter After, the Brian Jonestown Massacre, & Sky Parade all pushing each other
Philadelphia with the Golden Ball, Photon Band, Lilys, Dr. Dog, Mazarin (r.i.p.) all pushing each other
England as a whole, indeed the entire U.K., with Of Arrowe Hill, Scotland’s Fast Camels, those wacky Welshmen Super Furry Animals, and so many more…
In conversations with many of the above listed bands I’m convinced not only of their awareness of their peers-as you seem to be Tony, but also of their striving to achieve something which will dent the landscape or mindscape if you will; an album which will be held in some esteem by psychedelia aficionados. That’s not to say there aren’t bands who work in isolation from the current scene, I can think of a few, but in the main I believe with all the avenues available for awareness and contact now many do take advantage of it. Bands build networks of like-minded bands and utilize the shared affinity to play together as built-in support mechanisms. (At least the savvy ones do, imho.)
Bottom line: I regard this as another great era of psychedelic music.