Thursday, March 19, 2009
As we sit one day away from the Equinox, and all of the pagan attachments it conjures, it seems only fitting to finally take up the task presented to me some months ago; namely to do justice to a musician I have a deep admiration for. He's someone I call friend, too.
One of the very first things I found out about him, some years ago when I first contacted him, was he very much understands my need to reach out and converse with those in this psychedelic genre. He's a self-proclaimed "fan boy", too. In the best possible sense. He's quested for his heroes, too. Sometimes he gets them, sometimes he falls slightly short. We all do.
For me he's a cult hero's cult hero. A man who should be more widely known, and that based upon his music, let alone his bright, acerbic wit and openness. How and why he remains so widely unknown boggles. His talents are akin to Donovan, (but less vegetarian); Bobb Trimble, (but more prolific); Roky & Syd, (without the attendant drama and sideshow aspect); and a few more you might be able to think of in like vein.
Readers, it's a distinct privilege and honor to give you today's participant in our "10 Questions" survey:
He's achieved a catalog numbering over three dozen releases! And we hope he doesn't slow down!
He's worked with one of his hereoes on an album:
And, one of my favorite reviews of his work is by Richie Unterberger, at AMG, who writes:
"As is the case with Robyn Hitchcock and Donovan — the two names most likely to spring to mind when you hear Damien Youth — there isn't a huge difference from one Damien Youth record to the other. That would be a substantial problem for most artists. But, again, as with Hitchcock and Donovan, it's not such a bother in Damien Youth's particular situation, because if you like what he has to give, he delivers the goods with consistency and enough variety and imagination to sustain pleasurable listening. Like the somewhat more widely distributed CD Bride of the Asylum, this reflects his evolution from the lo-fi production of his cassette-only releases to a cleanly produced (but not at all slick) folk-pop/rock sound, deftly integrating other arrangements and lite-psych effects in addition to his usual voice and guitar. In its darker moods, the sense of sinister playfulness can evoke Syd Barrett (who, of course, is a common reference point for Hitchcock as well). In its lighter moments, it's playful and uplifting, as on the exultant "Traveling." Whatever the setting, this is consistently melodic and soothing, with the sort of gentle, solitary euphoria that typified a lot of British folk-rock/psychedelia of the late '60s and very early '70s, without sounding like toothless revivalism. It's not all sunshine and magic, either: Often placid on the surface, the lyrics frequently conceal ambiguity and disturbance that can be startling, as in the ode to his "f*cked-up little dandelion girl." Then there's "Decorate," at face value another gentle, folky ballad, but one with sexually explicit lyrics that verge on the pornographic. Probably bound to pass unnoticed, even on an underground cult level, because of its limited distribution and lo-fi packaging, it's another notch in Damien Youth's bid to become one of the first belatedly discovered cult artists of the 21st century." (For 1999's Sunfield)
Of his 2004 Phantasy of Fables, Richie says:
" The song remains pretty much the same over the course of the prolific Damien Youth's releases, but it's a pretty good song. And you get more than one song, of course, on Phantoms of Fables, though the approach is in line with most of his previous albums: pleasant, acoustic-based folk-pop-rock-psychedelia with some unusual lyrical twists. Since that nutshell description could be applied to some Robyn Hitchcock records, it's not that much of a surprise to find a tune here titled "I Know Where Robyn Hitchcock Lives," itself likely a partial homage to Television Personalities' cult homage "I Know Where Syd Barrett Lives." For the most part, however, the material's devoted to the kind of moods and topics common to Damien Youth territory: pastoral romance with a touch of the gothic and mystical, ghosts, melancholy days in the life ("These Days Are But Molecules"), and trippy and fearful disorientation ("Freaked Out," "Dead Relative"). Some of the lyrics go into the odd and disturbing, like "Doll Child"'s recollection of dressing up a woman (girlfriend?) like a doll child and covering her in glue, describing her as being to nymphomania "like Elvis is to heart attacks or black blind men are to blues." Still, the tone is more often than not friendly and reassuring, if more conducive to solitary dark rooms than open sunny fields. And while some more variation from the acoustic folk-rock Damien Youth frequents might be welcome, it's not all stuck in that format, going into mildly gutsy Syd Barrett-ish full rock on occasion (particularly "I Know Where Robyn Hitchcock Lives"), and employing forceful piano at others."
Oh, and he's owned a Hotel...
Let's see what he thinks of psychedelia, shall we?
1. In ten words-or less, define "psychedelic music."
To make manifest the mind's subliminal functions.
2. What is the most psychedelic instrument, why?
The human voice... It's the easiest to manipulate & the most direct connecting to the brain.
3. Favorite psychedelic album of all time? (What makes it so.)
Oddly enough, my favorite psych songs aren't necessarily on the best psych albums. So if I'm going with a full album, Pink Floyd's "Piper At The Gates Of Dawn" is one of those psych introduction albums that maintains it's high standing... no matter how well versed you become in the whole psych scene later.
4. What legendary lost recording or unfindable bootleg would you most like to have?
It's actually a TV spot... There was a television show that did a profile on "freak rock" in the early 70s. The guests were Jayne County... and most importantly... Ronn Goedert from White Witch! I finally tracked it in France. "Film, images, archives audiovisuelles." They informed me that the film was stored at their NY location... All attempts to contact them failed.
5. What song or album that wouldn't fall into the classic "psych" definition is, nevertheless, psychedelic to you?
First Utterance by Comus. The odd part, If they were playing electric instruments, it would probably just be an interesting speed metal album. As it stands.. It's mighty tripped out & a good example of how the human voice can contribute to psyched out landscapes.
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?
It would be the Beatles Let It Be session... Not so much for the music. But I've heard there were actual fist fights during those sessions. . . You see sir... I love the drama.
7. Who, in your opinion, are some of the most overlooked artists in the psychedelic genre?
Colin Lloyd Tucker's Toy Box album is a lost psych gem. (Psych to me.) The last time I checked, that album wasn't even listed at the All Music Guide. Also, My dear friend Peter Daltrey was among the best psych pioneers, as those Kaleidoscope/Fairfield Parlour LP's pay testimony to. And lastly... Chrysalis! Their lone LP is brilliant on so many levels. Spider was a real genius.
8. What's the enduring appeal of psychedelic music?
Psych music maintains itself by leaving room for the listener's interpretation. It's like the sound version of the Rorschach inkblots... Each of us derive a different meaning from it & in exploring it, we project, infuse & invest ourselves in it. I know we've all heard Soft Machine Vol. II... But do I think we're all heard the same Soft Machine Vol. II? ....Oh no.
9. Top Ten Psychedelic Songs?
These days, I've been enjoying a little pop in my psych.
Blackberry Way - The Move
Tomorrow Never Knows - The Beatles
The Shepherd & The Moon - Aphrodite's Child
See Emily Play - Pink Floyd
Do It Again For Jeffrey - Kaleidoscope UK.
Dr. Roots Garden - Chrysalis
Look At Me I'm You - Blossom Toes
Thinking Thoughts - Daevid Allen/Karmer
Madman Running Through The Field - Dantalian's Chariot
Hurry Up John - Idle Race
10. Turn the tables, if you'd like, and ask me a question.
Damien: In all of your contacting & exchanging with cult pop legends over the years... Who were among the top on your excitement meter?
-valis: Looking back I'd have to say the Squire of the Subterrain. He's the first one who ever responded to my e-mails and I was-and still am, blown away by his kindness & generosity of spirit. Helluva' musician, too!
Also on that list would be the guys from Plasticland. A couple of unforgettable nights with them.
Of those who I've never met but correspond with: you, Kris Thompson, Lenny Helsing, Ed Ball, Jim Klieforth, David McLean, and Dr. Pierpaolo Rizzo.....in truth-and not out of politic, everyone I correspond with in some way knocks me for a loop and excites me no end to be conversing with. All of 'em.
Thanks Damien! You're a patient man.