Thursday, February 12, 2009

10 Questions

Greetings once again psychedelia fans! Hoping the "Best of 2008" post sated appetites in the "food for thought" category. Thanks once again to our guests providing their own lists.

Time marches ever onward so I'm happy to bring a new "10 Questions" survey to your attention. (We've plenty more lined up to keep us going into the future!)

So, today we welcome a pair who took the survey ensemble, and in a state of apt haze. The answers come out a delight and full of an odd lucidity given the suggested intake. Let's all welcome Peter Quinnell and Lori Black of The Flower Machine!

The band's 2004 debut, Chalk Dust Dream of the Tea Cozy Mitten Company, still gets airplay (earplay) here as a slice of psych-pop whimsy. Here's what Tim Sendra of AMG says of it:

" The Flower Machine follow in the hazy footsteps of the new breed of California psych-country bands like the Tyde, Beachwood Sparks, All Night Radio, and the Elephant 6 neo-psych groups like Olivia Tremor Control and Neutral Milk Hotel. Singer and main songwriter Peter Quinell was in the Stereolab-inspired Majestic, so a little bit of that band's aesthetic creeps in too. They also seem to be big fans of the pastoral sound of the Clientele, for "I Am the Coelacanth" is a dead ringer. In fact, on first listen to the band's debut, Chalk Dust Dream of the Tea Cozy Mitten Company, you'll be spending so much time playing spot the reference that the melodies and laid-back charm of the record will likely slip right past. If that does happen, make sure you give it another chance because the sweet "It's So Nice," the soaring "L.A. in the Rain," and the drifting "British Rail" are really strong songs that show the band to be almost in the same league as their influences. You'll also like Quinnell's inviting wisp of a voice and the simple but not boring arrangements, some that call up memories of the Rain Parade ("In the Glow"), some that almost sound like they could have been recorded sometime during the Stone Roses' lost years ("How to Fly an Aeroplane"). The only thing that might bug you is the occasional lyrical misstep in the direction of whimsy. Ah, but everyone has faults, don't they? Chalk the record up as a sterling debut with loads of promise for the future."

They've released their second album, Marmoset Meadow, this past August and it's a treat. Slightly heavier in places than its predecessor and showing a further progression of Mr. Quinnell's talent for turn of phrase and the music to match. (My own #11 album of the year.) Well then, you've been hipped. Let's see what they're up to:

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

Peter – tangerine candy canes in a haze of backwards cymbals

Lori - look through the trees at the lovely plastic cups of orange shake smiling

2. What is the most psychedelic instrument, why?

Peter – The Mk II Mellotron. That’s the one with the double keyboard side by side used on Strawberry Fields Forever. It also has tapes for horns that are quite good (which we just used on our track ‘the tangerine albatross’), and ‘ambient’ tape loops of people in a snack bar or in a pub. Its sound is so 60s that just one or two notes conjures up that whole era. I particularly love the 8-second loop where you have to keep pressing the keys down to make a continuous sound. I like to put it all over everything we record….and i still think we’re using it too sparingly, to be honest.

Lori – couldn’t agree more.

3. Favorite psychedelic album of all time?

Peter – I’d have to say, if the criteria is the album that best exemplifies psychedelia, it has to be SF Sorrow by The Pretty Things – it has all the elements of unhinged acid-era whimsy and daring for which the era is famous. And it’s a concept album. Of course, it was issued in Dec 68, at which point the tide had shifted away from that…if it had been issued a year earlier, it would have been a smash.

Lori – Soundtrack from the Film More by The Pink Floyd. It’s nude girls, the mediterranean, heroin…what more could you need?
(Editor's Note: Two outta' three ain't bad. I like your way of thinkin'!)

4. What legendary lost recording or unfindable bootleg would you most like to have?

Peter – There was just a new DVD out recently about The Technicolor Dream at the Alexandra Palace, London in spring 67 and the events leading up to it – The Pretty Things and the Soft Machine played, and Pink Floyd closed the event at dawn with sunlight streaming through the cathedral windows. Although there is random super 8 footage from early in the proceedings showing Lennon wandering around on acid, no one filmed or recorded the Floyd’s set professionally – to hear that performance from just before Syd’s descent into becoming withdrawn and difficult would be something. He was of course on acid as well – Daevid Allen watched him that night, and it was life-changing apparently.

Lori – Um…sorry, we’re listening to Status Quo’s Spare Parts album, we’re hammered and giggling….(spelled correctly)

5. What song or album that wouldn't fall into the classic "psych" definition is, nevertheless, psychedelic to you?

Peter – I always tell people that my favourite album of all time is Syd Barrett’s final solo album Barrett from 1970, which although it shares a similar sonic landscape with Atom Heart Mother (given the fact they were both done at Abbey Road at the same time and that Gilmour’s influence was prevelant in both), i still rate at it as the one of the most psychedelic listening experiences, because the lyrics seem to come from some alternate dimension where the illusion of abstraction is total from track to track. It’s almost like listening to a Zen mystical philosophy lecture expressed in sound.

Lori – just diggin The Pretty Things – Parachute is constant good….

6. Is there an advantage in being the pioneers (60s psychedelic bands), or being the continuing explorers armed with the knowledge of those pioneers work (the modern psychedelic bands)? Why?

Peter – The advantage certainly is being first – there is a power associated with that. Even Status Quo’s first album works, as a result of being done when it was done, and the innocence associated with that first step in a new direction. Also, the menace attached to the threat of a drug culture that’s going to lure young people away from the straight life was a very real issue, and that gave psychedelic rock a power and allure that is tough to recreate.

The advantage now is a chance to not make some of the same mistakes people made then of being ripped off by record companies, and then tossed aside when the fad switches to something else in the hit parade.

Lori – the world has no idea what’s coming next….

7. In your mind, if forced to pin down the first track signaling the beginning of the psychedelic music era, what would that track be?

Peter – Certainly Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues and its promo film from 1965 were a shot heard round the world. It was like a repudiation of showbiz and a gesture that was all about art for art’s sake. It freaked The Beatles into doing grass 24/7 and abandoning the writing of love songs. It was really the first act of artistic and civil disobedience that alluded to a lifestyle out of step with established Amercian culture, and evoked a young, beautiful & stoned underground way of life.

Lori – in a world full of secrets, it’s a saucerful…..

8. Is the psychedelic genre still viable today to artists working in it?

Peter - Making psychedlic music is a viable way of filtering experience and describing the way the universe functions, much like e.e. cummings did in 1950 in his collection of poems titled XAIPE (Rejoyce). So, beyond stylistic purism and retro-ish leanings, there is definitely still room for people to make artistic breakthroughs within the realm of psychedlia.

Lori – i’m pretty sure that people still trip. Whether it’s then or now, maybe i’m not even sure….

9. Top Ten Psychedelic Songs?


I Am the Walrus (The Beatles)

Arnold Layne (The Pink Floyd)

2000 Light Years From Home (Rolling Stones)

Defecting Grey (The Pretty Things)

Space Oddity (David Bowie)

DCBA-25 (Jefferson Airplane)

The Red Telephone (Love)

Crystal Liaison (The Fugs)
Badge (Cream)

Cardboard Watch (The End)

Lori –

Sickle Clowns (The Pretty Things)

Nowhere Man (The Beatles)

Hey Bulldog (The Beatles)

Mr. Tambourine Man (The Byrds)

Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun (Pink Floyd)

Trust (The Pretty Things)

Because (The Beatles)

Incense and Peppermint (Strawberry Alarm Clock)

White room (Cream)

Magic Carpet Ride (Steppenwolf)

10. Turn the tables, if you'd like, and ask me a question.
Peter – What’s your fav. Psych lp, then? Glad this didn’t go to eleven, as i believe the mushrooms are kicking in…
-valis: SF Sorrow. With CQ running close behind.

Lori – Do you have the cell phone number of the president of Warner Brothers? Because “everybody’s mad,” said Alice…
-valis: Read the directions and directly you will be directed in the right direction. I think I should understand that better, if I had it written down: but I can't quite follow it as you say it.

Thank you Peter & Lori! Best wishes on Marmoset Meadow!


gerryboy67 said...

Ha! One of the best interviews yet,Valis. Two psych troopers (trippers?). Funny and informative.

Cl;iff. said...

Great interview, I loved Lori's short but succinct answers, I've become a fan of hers without having heard a single note of her music!

sr-71 said...

Very entertaining stuff, this interview.