Thursday, January 15, 2009
We're a lucky lot. A very lucky lot indeed we band of brothers, we like-minded psouls joined by our obsession in the bendy sounds which spark our synapses into a dazzling inner display.
Our guest today is so widely known in the psychedelic (& garage) community, and so widely respected and esteemed we're humbled to bowing he's assented to plunge & plumb with our survey. (!)
Hmm..., let's start with Edinburgh, '83......
He's in a band called the Green Telescope..., (he'll also perform drum duties for The Rubber Dolfinarium.) It's a series of shows called "Kaleidoscope at the Caley".(He also played in the Belsen Horrors and The November Crimes.) The Green Telescope would release two 7"ers before calling it a day. Highly recommended for our guest's choice of covers throughout their releases, and live shows, too, I'd guess.
Today's guest, the pride of Edinburgh, Lenny Helsing!!!
(Photo by Jeroen van de Sande,Primitive Festival, 2008-THANKS!)
This guy knows from all sides the music we crave. He writes for Shindig! magazine as well as writing the liner notes for The Poets - Scotland's No.1 Group. A Thanes discography can be found here, and he's also a Wildebeest. (What's Gnu, anyone?)I could fill up pages and pages going on and on about Lenny. The guy's everywhere. Quite literally. We're lucky readers. Let's get to it, shall we?
1. In ten words-or less, define "psychedelic music."
Sounds that can take you completely out of yourself
2. What is the most psychedelic instrument, why?
Voices, because when layered, or effected or delivered in a particular way they can be truly mind-blowing.
3. Favorite psychedelic album of all time? (What makes it so.)
The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, because there is no other record that sounds anywhere near it, or quite conveys that 'acid bloom' feeling of intensity and giddy uncertainty.
4. What legendary lost recording or unfindable bootleg would you most like to have?
The Pretty Things with Phillipe De Barge in 1969 in pristine quality, though Mike Stax has just newly issued it on his U.T. label (from his magazine Ugly Things of course), so I'll be getting it soon. And also The 13th Floor Elevators / Stacy Sutherland – Beauty And The Beast, again I hear it's coming soon so I will hopefully get to hear it it all it's glory.
5. What song or album that wouldn't fall into the classic "psych" definition is, nevertheless, psychedelic to you?
Ha ha, there's probably millions of them out there, but something like Wire's 'Chairs Missing' LP from 1978 is a prime contender. Also 'Can't Stand The Pain' by The Pretty Things, Marianne Faithfull's 'Tomorrow's Calling' and 'Counting' 45s, 'Move' by late '60s UK or Canadian group Gaslight and also 'Now We're Thru' by The Poets are quite psychedelic to me.
6. You can use the "Wayback Machine" one time and go back to sit in on one album recording session; what band, recording what album would you choose and why?
Well there are plenty I could choose of course, but for a whole variety of different reasons I would choose The Pretty Things, while they were recording S.F. Sorrow, because I think it would be a completely exhilarating, not to mention a totally, and rockingly psychedelic experience watching them create all those wonderful and complex harmonies, and insistently powerful electric / acoustic dynamics with guitars, mellotron and all manner of tape effect measures. And although the essence of S.F. Sorrow's has more of a negative undercurrent flowing throughout, I'm still pretty sure they would've been an amazingly fun group to be around at that time.
(Editor's Note: It was also 40 years ago this month the Pretty Things would *mime* their S.F. Sorrow album at the Middle Earth club. January 25th, 1969.)
(Thanks to Mick Capewell, Marmalade Skies!)
7. Who, in your opinion, are some of the most overlooked artists in the psychedelic genre?
I dunno really, it's probably not so much the groups themselves, but some of their songs in particular, close to home I'd have to say The Beatstalkers – Little Boy ( a great pop-psych interpretation of The Action's heavier, longer demo), or The Studio Six's out there bizzarity Strawberry Window. Also The Marmalade (actually I would say they were indeed quite an overlooked group too) but they had a few totally great psych moments in their time - I See The Rain and Man In A Shop, both are great to these ears, as is their quite unusual 1970 cut 'Kaleidoscope' from their 'Reflections Of The Marmalade' LP. Check these lyrics: in the mystic magic mind of mirrors / silver sands of sunbeams slowly filter / imagination knows no senses / interpretations it dispenses. Also, there's another Scottish combo from '68 or thereabouts called Gully Foyle who only ever made it to acetate demo stage, but the 4 cuts I've heard are also pretty cool examples of beat going on into a more psych-rock dimension. Also I'm not saying such faves of mine like The Dovers were truly psychedelic or anything, but for sure their raging raga-styled cut 'The Third Eye' is nevertheless pure magical stuff; pastiching The Byrds' glorious 'Eight Miles High' I know but still… The Golden Dawn's inimitable 'Power Plant' LP used to be a well obscure set, but thankfully nowadays it's receiving a lot more attention, and so more people are aware of it, especially those younger fans of the psychedelic scene.
8. What's the enduring appeal of psychedelic music?
Well I think it's mainly because psychedelic music has quite a broad arc of sounds altogether, so there are always gonna be some things in there that you may have missed on the first dozen or so listens. Or maybe just the first couple of spins, then once you spot it / them, these little things can and do keep drawing us back. Also in the main, the lyrics and tunes can usually be fairly compelling, so once you do get right into it, you can become quite hooked; sometimes hopelessly so, as I'm sure you know. Also there are so many different strains of the psychedelic soup, from primitive garage-punk based sounds, pop-and-beat and soul-based psychedelia, and further on into the fully-formed psychedelic experience that we know and love, and what about the looser / tighter prog-psych style, found a lot in many of the continental-based groups. And then there's the later psych-rock style, as in hard rock with maybe just some bendy guitar leads, or blazing psych-style jazz with endless wind instrumentation like they did in some of the Hungarian and Czechoslovakian versions.
9. Top Ten Psychedelic Songs?
In no real order as they always chop and change from day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute, so this is just off the top of my head, and listed to reflect the full-on acid take on it, and the more garage-punk variety, plus taking in the renowned artists and some of the more obscure:
The Pink Floyd – Flaming
The 13th Floor Elevators – Earthquake
The Pretty Things – Defecting Grey
One In A Million – Fredereek Hernando
The Electric Prunes – I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)
Love – Your Mind And We Belong Together
Preston (aka Chris Carpenter) – This World Is Closing In On Me
The Seeds – Pictures and Designs
Incredible String Band – The Eyes Of Fate
The Pathfinders – Pumpkin Lantern
10. Turn the tables, if you'd like, and ask me a question.
Lenny: What electronic effect do you think can give a group a most way-out and truly psychedelic sound?
-valis: For effect I think it's gotta' be the Leslie speaker. Especially vocals, a la "Tomorrow Never Knows", through it.
Gods bless the creative genius of Geoff Emerick! I'm not sure bands even play to the fact you can pan when recording anymore. My headphones sure love the effect! (Hence my brain.)
George Gallacher of the Poets, when asked by Richie Unterberger, about whether "that weird, wobbly guitar sound on "I Love Her Still" produced by a Leslie speaker?" replied: "Yeah, I think the rhythm guitar on "I Love Her Still" was put through a Leslie cabinet."
Yes, Lenny, I'll take a Leslie Cabinet. Thank you Lenny! And best wishes for a great 2009!