Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ten Questions

Greetings & salutations readers! Bon Jeudi!¡adelante!

Our guest this week is an Englishman now living in Spain and we're honored he took the time to delight us with some thought-provoking answers! From the (now sadly defunct) Murmurs Of Irma, guitarist Tony Laming!

Here's some thoughts & reviews of them:

"MURMURS OF IRMA - Cloudwatch HQ (Broken Dolly)

The Portsmouth, England psychedelic revival group Murmurs Of Irma must have seriously messed with the heads of Monkees fans as the opening act on the venerable TV band's recent UK tour. Darryl De Beugny (vocals), Andy Wandless (guitar), Tony Laming (guitar), Mike Fowler (keyboards), Neil Runnals (bass) and Mark Vickers (drums) play in a distinctly English style that references Pink Floyd, The Kinks and The Beatles, with the added whimsy and camp of Roxy Music and Pulp. Their first full-length CD Cloudwatch HQ lulls the listener with tuneful '60s pop but makes the experience more truly psychedelic with strange, uncomfortable touches. The cover image of cheerfully bright pink severed thumb hovering in a calm sky creates a fair metaphor for the music inside.

The opening four tracks on Cloudwatch HQ stay in the area of charming psychedelic pop similar to early Gorky's Zygotic Mynci. The title song and "While You Were Sleeping" are especially good. "Cradlesong" is appropriately restrained and gentle. "Jellyfish Brain" is the first of several somewhat gross and disturbing (yet clever and humorous) tangents peppering the album. "Millipede Lover" warps old music hall styles into something truly demented. "Mannequins" sounds like a Syd Barrett song built over a sample of the wacky Latin lounge part of The Beatles' "You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)". The memorable vocal hook of "Lava Lamp" could be vintage Queen giving the psychedelic genre a go. On "English Tea Ceremony", the band takes a variety of lo-fi source sounds such as bottles clanking, muffled percussion, water dripping, guitar strings scraped with a pick, and snoring, then recombines them in a surprisingly pristine whole of glossy production. "Marjorie's Nose" is another odd detour into macabre sci-fi worthy of Soft Machine Volume 2 but the serenity wins out in the end on the long fade-out of "Climbing The Drainpipe".

Cloudwatch HQ has a high level of pop appeal as well as a playful dark side. Murmurs Of Irma catches a certain madcap spirit running through much of English music. The playing, songwriting and production are solid throughout. Fans of indie psych, Britpop and general Dadaist madness are advised to check this one out."
(above copyright Nick Bensen, 2003, from Free City Media)

"Pop psychonaughts who view the world through Alice in Wonderland shaped sunglasses." - Record Collector

"The band experiment wildly with tape loops, backward guitars and assorted children's toys to great effect. An entire album's worth of this madness is demanded immediately." - Ptolemaic Terrascope

As for me, the album is certainly akin to Mr. Toad's Wild Ride! A headphone wonder.

So, let us peer into his mind:

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

Electric music for mind & body....

2. What is the most psychedelic instrument, why?

Electric guitar. Infinate possibilities. Check out the early Stars Of The Lid lps for example, can't believe they were (apparently) made with just guitars & effects. Also the only instrument I even vaguely understand, so....

3. Favorite psychedelic album of all time?

Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. The original & best.

4. Roky or Syd, why?

Can I have both?? Age 15 I bought the first two Elevators lps from Virgin Records in the old Tricorn in Portsmouth. The shop used to have a separate section for 60s psych/garage reissues, which I started to experiment with while moving away from my teen mod roots!
The Elevators lps had a mystique about them in then, when I didn't really know the
history about them. By contrast, around the same time I got Piper on Music For Pleasure pressing, from Woolworths probably. Sounded amazing anyhow, still does even though I usually go for my mono copy these days...
If I have to pick one, then I guess it's Syd. Closer to home, I can identify more with the music. Texas in the 60s, I really don't have any idea about. Plus also Roky is a bit of a sore point for me these days, I had tickets for his London Meltdown show, booked flights from Spain etc. Came into work one Monday morning to find emails from friends wondering where the hell I'd got too. Turns out I'd got the dates wrong & missed the show. Ouch!

5. If you could be a member of any band in history, what band would it be and what would you play?

Well, let's be honest it would have been pretty cool to have been in The Beatles eh?! I don't care what I'd have played, I'd even have been Ringo...

6. What era has the best roster of psychedelic music?(60s,70s,80s,90s,00s..?) Why?

The best roster has to be now, cos there's so much great music easily available. But at the same time I don't think music has the same value as it did before. Not to me anyway, that's my experiences & I'm not saying that if I'd have been 16 when the Arctic Monkeys hit then I wouldn't have been blown away like everyone else (actually, I was still blown away by them in my mid-30s, so they sort of exception to the rule).
Reading again the roster do you mean bands emminating from specific eras? If so then the answer definately 60s, even though as a collector you continue searching all over for a new hit, it still comes back to the 60s as the best time for music, psychedelic or otherwise. I listen to all sorts of musics from different times, places etc. and appreciate it all, but it all comes from a deep love of mid-to-late 60s records...

7. What band, active today, most defines "psychedelic" to you?

I'll say Akron/Family, based on the fact that they've twice blown me away live & also that they have all the elements of classic psychedelia without slavishly apeing the styles. I'm not really interested in bands with all the haircuts/clothes anymore, perhaps that's just 'cos I don't look so good in them myself anymore?! Other notable mentions should go to Broadcast, Jennifer Gentle, Animal Collective, Acid Mothers Temple (I don't dig them so much, but undeniably mind-altering in concert!). A special mention too for my old favourite band, The Church. Still capable of a psychedelic wooooosh on a good night!

8. What album would you most like to cover in its entirety, why?(even if you were the only one who ever heard it.)

Not sure I could be bothered now, to be honest. When I was a kid I guess I'd perhaps fantasise about such things, now though pushing 40 I just can't imagine starting such a project. Have you heard those Mojo magazine cds where they've done this sort of thing?
The Revolver one was painful (although that said I quite enjoyed the White Album one, Vashi does Vashti on "Marta My Dear"). Ok ok...Red Krayola's "Parable Of The Arable Land" cos you could grab all your mates & bash out a godforsaken noise real quick. And I really like the wobbliness of "Pink Stainless Tail". Or perhaps the 3rd West Coast Pop Art lp ("A Child's Guide..."), the Irma's used to do "Until The Poorest Of People Have Money To Spend" from that lp & I reckon we could probably have done something with all the songs. Although probably it wouldn't have sounded that much different to the original, so not much point then...

9. Top Ten Psychedelic Songs?

This is a bit tricky to be honest, I generally think in albums & don't really have
favourite songs as such. My girlfriend is a DJ on the 60s scene in Europe, & she's the opposite...only cares about original 45s (you should see the state of her lps in
comparison!). Anyway, after a bit of head-scratching I've come up with these:

Joe Meek & The Blue Men - I Hear A New World
Beatles - Tomorrow Never Knows
Pink Floyd - Astronomy Domine
13th Floor Elevators - Slip Inside This House
Blossom Toes - Look At ME I'm You
Grateful Dead - Dark Star
Can - Mother Sky
Wipers - Youth Of America
The Chills - Pink Frost
Cardiacs - Come Back Clammy Lammy

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

Tony: Ever dreamed of music that never actually existed?
I woke up a while back convinced I'd purchased a psych album by Arthur Lowe, even had the cover in my head but eventually realised I'd morphed Ken Nordine's "Colours" artwork around Arthur's features. I still reckon it could have been an interesting listen...

-valis: I can't say that I've ever dreamed of music that never actually existed but I constantly hear music, in my head, which doesn't exist. At least as far as I know, and I know some. Quite a lot of some.
The difference is I've no talent for actually creating music, whereas you do! I hope you'll consider bringing to light some of these dreamt tunes for us. That's the responsibility of your talent. My talent seems to be in shining my little light-yes, everyone, join in: "this li'l light of mine...I'm gonna' let it shine...", erm...anyway, on music and bands which could use said light. (As per your own "Bonus Question" below. Good going Tony!)


And now...a bonus question!! (taken from other interviews on your site)

"What psychedelic album do you wish more people knew about?"
"Cloudwatch HQ" by Murmurs Of Irma hehe ;-)
Or "Living In The Past" by Jethro Tull, lose the boring live side 3 & you're left with something close to a UK "Forever Changes" (no, I'm not mad!!)

Well, best wishes to everyone in trying to obtain a copy! Happy Hunting! Gracias Tony!


sr-71 said...

Firsties! Oh, wait, this isn't the AV Club......

Cliff. said...

The cogs of the old brain cells started turning, where had I heard of Murmurs of Irma? After much searching I found that I'd included 'Niven' on an old mix but that is the sum total of my MOI collection, still it's a gtrat tune.

Can't fault Tony's answers and I'll even turn a blind eye to The Dead tune he includes in his top 10 each to his own as it were.

gerryboy67 said...

Another great one, Valis. I'd never even heard of these guys, but trust me, I'll be trackin' down in famous Scotpsych fashion! "I think madness is too pure like Mother Sky........"

Jørn Smedslund said...

A most glorious and enthralling orchestra!
Hi Tony!