Thursday, July 03, 2008

10 Questions

Greetings once again Psychedelic Voyagers! There are good days, there are great days, and there is TOday! Today is a fantastic day. We have not one, but two, very special guests joining us for the 10 Questions survey!

A few months ago I contacted Aaron Milenski to ask whether he'd be interested in participating in the survey. His reply was swift and affirmative, adding that he thought it would be fun for us if I could get Patrick Lundborg to participate simultaneously, to compare and contrast their answers. Patrick, along with co-author Aaron, and a few others, recently released the highly-informative
Acid Archives book, an expanded companion to their always-handy website.

Of the book, Jeff Penczak of the Terrascope Online said:

"The book is essentially the print version of The Acid Archives of Underground Sounds 1965-1982 website that began over a decade ago when Lundborg merged his “Acid Archives” project with information included in co-author, Ron Moiré’s ‘Underground Sounds’ book that from 1997-99, although this version contains over a hundred entries you won’t find on the website. The site went live in April, 2005 and since then has grown to become “the #1 Internet resource for information and reviews of rare, obscure and unknown LPs from the USA and Canada 1965-82” [their description] with over 15,000 visitors a month. While Joynson & Co. present just about every act from roughly 1963-1976 that fit their criteria (the books mentioned above cover Canada, the US and Britain respectively), “the Lama” and his co-writers rarely cover albums released on major labels. As Lundborg explains, “For a title on a professional record label to be featured, it must be: 1) reasonably enjoyable; 2) an obscurity at the time of release; 3) somewhat difficult to find.” He goes on to note in his lengthy, explanatory introduction, “the vast majority of our entries could be categorized as ‘private’ or ‘local’ releases; meaning self-financed projects with very limited distribution.” While admitting that there were probably well in excess of 100,000 albums that meet this criteria, “what is featured here are items that time has proven to be of interest, for one reason or another.”
(You can read the rest of this great review here.)

Aaron's become one of the few reviewers who's taste I trust explicitly; his exuberance for the Zerfas led me to that release and I'd rank it in my Top 20, if not my Top Ten. He's also a huge powerpop fan and I'm a dyed-in-the-wool slave to that genre, too. I pay a LOT of attention to where his head is at on any given band or album, no matter the genre. It's with a great deal of pride and epic proportions of honor that I present you their responses, simultaneously, as per Aaron's suggestion. Enjoy!

1. In ten words- or less, define "psychedelic music."

Aaron:"anything that rare record dealers can hype."

Excuse me if I'm cynical, but being part of the collector world has done that to me.
That's my honest answer, but I'd also like to point out that for someone who spends so much time writing about psychedelic music, I'm not at all invested in defining what it is or isn't. I simply love music that is creatively arranged, that breaks new barriers, that messes with the rules of rock and roll songwriting.
Some prog and krautrock fits that definition too, I suppose. But it thrills me when
I discover something that sounds like nothing else I've heard, or that takes a style
I know and love (i.e. guitar pop) and expands upon it. A lot of psychedelic music
is actually very derivative or contrived. I prefer something that sounds like
it's coming from the mind of an individual that sees the world unlike anyone else.
I suppose that defines "music made by people with mental illnesses" as much as
"psychedelic music."

Patrick: Music related to the experience of psychedelic drugs.

2. What is the most psychedelic instrument, to you, and why?

Aaron:Analogue synth’ (i.e. ARP, moog.) It just sounds "wrong," you know? I love it both for the way it warps sound and for the way it can be so ominous. To me there's nothing more psychedelic than all those noises in "Forest of Black" by Dirty Filthy Mud, or the stuff on the United States Of America album, or Annette Peacock's song "I'm The One."

Patrick: I've always found the vibraphone/xylophone to have a psychedelic feel. Flute can also be quite psychedelic, if used the right way.

3.Can you build an all-stars-of-psychedelia three-or four-piece band?

Aaron:Hmmm....I need a female singer, one with a haunting beautiful voice. How about Celia Humphris of Trees? My drummer would be Jon Medvescek from
Anonymous, I want Joe Byrd on synths and electronic devices, Paul McCartney on bass, Arthur Lee playing acoustic guitar and writing lyrics, and Tom Verlaine on lead guitar. The best psychedelic lead guitar ever, by the way, is Verlaine's work on the 15 minute live "Little Johnny Jewel." If Celia Humphris is unavailable,I want Bobb Trimble to sing.

Patrick: Vocals-George Kinney (Golden Dawn), Lead Guitar-Joe Docko (Mystic Tide), Bass Guitar-Phil Lesh (Grateful Dead), Percussion-Father Yod!

4. Name your three favorite little-known/underrated psychedelic albums (and
three most overrated):

Aaron:I wrote about these in the book, but three little known ones that always kill me are DAUGHTERS OF ALBION, Zephyr's SUNSET RIDE, and an underrated
one is the Stones' SATANIC MAJESTIES REQUEST, an album that just gets better and better with time and gets extra points because they hate it.

Also, this isn't psych, but the most underrated hard rock album is REO Speedwagon's
R.E.O. T.W.O. Best bar rock record ever...better than any private press hard rock record, period. Really...listen to this one and prepare to be completely surprised.

Oh, and most underrated song: Hampton Grease Band's "Hey Old Lady/Bert's Song." Craziest three minutes in the history of rock, and the amazing thing is that it's arranged like a completely normal rock and roll song, but the singing is so wacked that it's utterly mind blowing.

Three most overrated: Well, this is personal taste, but I've always hated the
singing on the Jefferson Airplane albums. I like much of their music, but the
voices (and in particular, the blend of voices), kill it for me. So, #1 on this
list would be SURREALISTIC PILLOW. Also highly overrated: Dark : ROUND THE EDGES, which is no more than an OK hard rock album that somehow has become the crown jewel of UK collectordom, and Cream's DISRAELI GEARS,an album that's half crap, but people seem to somehow forgive that half because it's Clapton.

Patrick: Cold Sun-Dark Shadows, Mandrake Memorial-Puzzle, Fifty Foot Hose-Cauldron

I prefer not to mention overrated, as I don't like to think in such terms :-). But there's a lot of average 60s pop that is being promoted as "psychedelic", especially from England, that I don't care much for. I don't like the heavy "biker" amphetamine fuzz stuff that was popular around 1969 either -- most of that came from Los Angeles.

5. You can trip back in time and witness any band's recording session;
which band, recording which album, are you most likely to choose?

Aaron:Love's FOREVER CHANGES, because it could have been such a disaster, with all of the studio musicians who came in and screwed it all up before
the band re-recorded it right. I also suspect it's a case where somewhere during the sessions it dawned on people that they were making one of the greatest albums ever, and it would have been amazing to have been there when that realization started to hit.

Patrick: Probably the 13th Floor Elevators recording "Easter Everywhere".

6. In the "Fave Raves" section of the Acid Archives, you list your Top Ten Independent & Major Label Psych' Records; noting this list was compiled in 2003 has anything changed in the subsequent five years?

Aaron:My major label list was most definitely not psych--it was my ten favorite albums regardless of genre, and based on my own taste, those albums
have stood the test of time. For some reason, it has kind of nagged me that Michael Angelo is on my indie list. I do love the record, but I think if I did the list again I'd add something that grabs me every time, like maybe Rayne.

Patrick: Well, our tastes have probably changed a little, but the lists haven't been updated! If you check the book version of Acid Archives, you will find slightly different (updated) lists for most of us. It's possible that Relatively Clean Rivers would make my list now.

7. Can you list your "Essential Bookshelf of Psychedelic Music"?

Aaron:Hmm, I'm sadly under-read when it comes to the psychedelic experience,as opposed to psychedelic music. I think the Borderline Books series is
extremely helpful, and there are tons of websites out there, so many I can't keep track of them all. There are also a bunch of zines; just about everything is useful and/or fun. I love Ugly Things because the articles are so comprehensive and because there are so many reviews. But sadly, I'm not of much use in answering this question. I'm just too overwhlemed by the sheer amount of information out there. By the way, there will soon be a new guide to rare British records (and mainstream records of the time period), similar to, but more comprehensive than, the Archives, and I recommend it highly. Also...when you buy CD reissues, read the liner notes.
That's where all of the best stories are.

Patrick: There aren't many great books to read about psychedelic music specifically, but I would pick up a good book on the San Francisco scene, such as Charles Perry's "Haight Ashbury", and the recent "Eye Mind" by Paul Drummond, which deals with the 13th Floor Elevators. If Mike Stax of Ugly Things would put out his huge article series on the Misunderstood as a book, that would be recommended too. As for magazines, there's Ugly Things in the USA, Shindig in England, and Misty Lane in Italy. All 3 are great and must-read for 60s fans.

8. Name an album you think of as psychedelic but most/many of your peers
might disagree on?

Aaron:As hinted above, Television's MARQUEE MOON.

Patrick: The first two LPs by Strawberry Alarm Clock. People think they were some kind of bubblegum group, but they were a terrific psych band.

9. Please list your All-Time Top Twenty Favorite Psychedelic Songs:

Aaron:In addition to the the specific songs I mentioned earlier (i.e. "I'm The One," "Little Johnny Jewel," "Forest of Black"), in no particular order, and subject to the whim of my short term memory:

Zerfas: "The Piper"
Bobb Trimble: "When The Raven Calls"
Beatles: "Tomorrow Never Knows," "Rain" and "She Said She Said"
Dovers "Third Eye"
Trees: "Snail's Lament"
Misunderstood: "Children of The sun"
Peter Grudzien: "Kentucky Candy"
United States of America: "Coming Down"
Russell Morris: "The Real Thing"
Nazz: "Open My Eyes"
Morgen: "Of Dreams"
D. R. Hooker: "The Sea"
Rick Saucedo: "In My Mind"
Kaleidoscope: "Flight From Ayshia"
Donovan: "Hurdy Gurdy Man"
E-Tpyes: "Put The Clock Back On The Wall"
Soft Boys: "Kingdom Of Love"
XTC: "Travels In Nihilon"
Sally Eaton: "Flowers In The Air"
Cream: "White Room"
Soft Machine: "Why Are We Sleeping"
Blue Phantom: "Distillation" (best fuzz guitar ever)
Brainticket: “Brainticket”

Relatively Clean Rivers - Journey Through The Valley Of O
Cold Sun - South Texas
Factory - Path Thru The Forest
Martin Denny - Soshu Night Serenade
Marcus - Sweet Inspiration
Zerfas - The Piper
The Deep - Color Dreams
50 Foot Hose - Fantasies
Charlie Tweddle - Alien Invasion
13th Floor Elevators - Dust
Golden Dawn - This Way Please
Beatles - It's All Too Much
Scorpio Tube - Yellow Listen
Mystic Tide - Frustration
Grateful Dead - That's It For The Other One
Byrds - Eight Miles High
Donovan - Isle Of Islay
Human Expression - Optical Sound
Dirty Filthy Mud - Forest Of Black
Leviathan - Second Production

10. Turn the tables, if you'd like, and ask me a question:

Aaron:What's your favorite power pop album?

valis: I've thought on this from the moment I got your answers Aaron. Long have I concentrated, too. I'm going to have to admit something, here and now-I'm not an "album-oriented" guy. Never have been. (It used to cause great consternation to my brother, growing up, because our rule was: First to the turntable rules it. You'd have to leave the room and thereby waive your ownership.) I'd play a track from such and such an album, then move on to the next song I wanted/need to hear, and so on, for hours. There are only a handfull of albums I can play all the way through, or front-to-back. I've been tempted to say The Beatles Help! album, but in my heart-of-hearts I have to go with the brilliant House Of Love self-titled debut on the Fontana label. (a/k/a "The Butterfly Album".) Loved it since I first heard it, 18 years ago. Not a dud track on it. From Hannah to 32nd Floor this one is just pure powerpop perfection, to these ears. I can listen to Shake and Crawl or The Hedonist on repeat forever, plus The Beatles And The Stones may just be the most dead-on lyrics about the listening experience we music-obsessives feel. Shine On does exactly that. I realize some will say "that's Britpop" or "that's pre-shoegaze" or some such. It's powerpop to me. And it's perfect. Hope that suffices.

Patrick: Do you get people asking you about obscure 60s groups and records, and if so -- which ones do people ask you the most asked about?

valis: Patrick, I rarely do. The majority of the queries I get, from friends who ask those kinds of questions, are typically regarding the neo-psych' bands and the current practitioners. I leave the 60s to the pro's like yourself and Mike Stax of Ugly Things and the Shindig! staff. You're much better equipped than I am. I've my hands full keeping up with the great bands making the sounds we love right now. And, there are many! This genre is alive and vibrant, thank the gods. Thank the bands!

Thank you Aaron & Patrick!!!

(Editor's Note: Patrick wanted me to provide readers with information on where you might be able to acquire your very own copy of the Acid Archives:
In Europe: try Subliminal Sounds or Clear Spot

In the States: try Forced Exposure or Amazon )


gomonkeygo said...

Awesome dual-interview! And I completely agree - Marquee Moon is one of the most incredible psych albums ever made and ever misunderstood as punk or whatever it was supposed to be. I get dizzy just looking at the cover!

Anonymous said...

Favorite entry yet? Hmm...though, me thinks I smell a comp/mix a brewin!


Anonymous said...

Wow. I was on-the-hook when he said that much of psych is contrived and derivative and the hook was completely removed when he raved about R.E.O Speedwagon. And "Disraeli Gears" is overrated?? Good grief.

(sigh).....I guess we get back to "different strokes for different folks" but I'm reminded, once again, just how sucky I find the musical choices some people make.


Jim K.

gerryboy67 said...

A coup indeed, old chap. I must agree about Disraeli Gears. Parts are great and parts bore me. Also, I am becoming more of a "jump from one song to the next" type-a-guy myself, as I simply haven't the time to listen to albums all the way through much these days. Keep up the really great work!

Cliff Cook said...

Fabulous just fabulous interview, megods I've some detective work to do now. Couldn't agree more with anyone dissing Clapton can't stand him or his fret work! As for REO S peedwagon, I'll have to inevestigate before commenting further but on the basis of aforementioned Clapton knocking I'll listen with impartial ears!

sr-71 said...

Having purchased more than my fair share of supposed hidden psych masterpieces, I hafta agree with Aaron that psych can be overused and misused as a marketing term to music that is simply inexpert and directionless. Music that partakes of the godhead can take many forms and can just as easy be found in power pop as in some free form freakout. Very astute interviews!