Friday, March 05, 2010

10 Questions

Hail Voyagers! Ready for yet another assault on the territory, vis-a-vis someone's inner landscape. We've quite the person to turn our attention to this week, as you'll soon see.

In their own words:

" In the early 90's, in a back street garage somewhere in Bristol, Simon, Hugo, Wayne and founding member Dave Spencer would jam for hours and then retire to Simon's house for tea and smoke until we could barely communicate. These were happy days and we really didn't give a fuck about anything other than getting in that garage, away from the scum outside, and turning those amps up to 11. Happy days don't last and paranoia set in. Dave left and then there were three. After some unsuccessful attempts to find a like minded soul, we were introduced to The Rock Prof. Paul was the missing piece in our puzzle. We put out our first 7", 'quad' in '94 and met up with Simon Keeler. He was much more than a label manager and he became our man/nanny. He put up with a lot of shit and I don't think he ever realised how grateful we were. We certainly didn't tell him. All we really wanted to do is play and make a racket. Putting records out would be great but surely no ones gonna buy this shit, we thought. Trying to get us to play gigs made his hair fall out. 12 years later we are still putting records out and still finding it strange that people buy them and come to our rare gigs. Although rare the buzz from playing live still keeps us going especially since adding our own psyche lightshow. "

Today's guest is Hugo Morgan, of The Heads! The mighty Bristoleros bringin' the righteous ruckus as if in an alterna-verse where Hawkwind merged with Loop, had a bastard son and called it The Heads! Full-on qualified for the questions we've put to him, too.

The Heads put out their debut LP, Relaxing With The Heads, in 1995. Here's AMG's Eduardo Rividavia:

" Originating out of Bristol, England, the Heads brought a somewhat milder, heavily psychedelic bent to the '90s' teeming stoner rock scene. On their 1995 debut, Relaxing With the Heads, the band alternates between Hawkwind-like space rock drone themes ("Widowmaker," the driving opener "Quad") and post-Detroit fuzz/punk freakouts à la MC5 ("Don't know Yet," the quite brilliant "Television"). Elsewhere, the creeping "U 33" sees them indulge in Nuggets-styled garage psychedelics, while the ten-minute "Coogan's Bluff" introduces one of their pet fetishes in years to come — very extensive jams. More often than not, the lasting impression is that of a uniformly accomplished and professionally recorded album, but one that ultimately yields few truly memorable tunes. Indeed, congealing their chemically altered brains into unison long enough to wax a truly "complete" album would remain a troublesome hallmark for much of the Heads' career, and here, only the aforementioned "Quad," "Television," and the unusually diverse "Taken Too Much" stand out as true moments of glory. All the while, the band's most distinctive feature has to be singer Simon Price, whose conversational, low-end vocal style emulates both Iggy Pop and Lou Reed with haunting accuracy. "

Two subsequent albums followed, then in 2000 they released Everybody Knows We Got Nowhere. Again we turn to AMG, and this by Tim DiGravina:

" The Heads create quite a stirring dirge on Everybody Knows We Got Nowhere. One wouldn't think that the relatively aggressive and moody guitar sound of the Heads would come from the band's home of Bristol, England, a region known more for experimental techno and trip-hop artists. Much of the music from Bristol qualifies as chill-out quality; the music on this album might be called fired-up. The band sound like they're scoring a 1970s movie about a road trip across the United States, a movie with a great deal of drug ingestion and scenes of violence or confusion, one would think. The band mostly strays from traditional song structures, focusing instead on the power and feel of wailing, dirty guitars. At times the guitars suggest the sound of airplanes taking off or landing, as on "Pill Jam," which later becomes reminiscent of Vincent Gallo's cool score to his movie Buffalo '66. Samples appear randomly throughout the album's running time. A goofy narrator, a playground of children, a barking dog, and the band's chatter all add to the confused state of things. "Barcoded" is a definite highpoint. It flies out of one's speakers like a cross between Killing Joke, Brian Eno's Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy, and The Fall's fractured art rock. "Motorjam" seems to go forever without ever getting boring, as searing guitars and wobbly bass compete to form a stranglehold on the overall atmosphere. "Stab Railroad" sounds like Joy Division doing a goth impression of the Doors. The album is messy, snarled, and, for the most part, quite interesting. Clocking in at more than 70 minutes, it's a bit hard to stomach in one listen. In small doses, the album shines quite bright; in larger doses, the music overwhelms and punishes, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Only fans of hard rock will appreciate what the Heads have concocted on Everybody Knows We Got Nowhere, but those enamored with blissed-out, shaggy guitars will love this crazed ride. "

For the rest of their discography look here. For now we pick Hugo's brain:

1. In ten words or less, define 'Psychedelic Music' ?

Music that changes your perspective.

2. What's the most psychedelic instrument and why ?

I don't think it's necessarilly just one instrument,more effects and attitude that give an instrument a psychedelic feel. Although in the classic 60's psychedlic sense it would be guitar using fuzz and wah. You can use Fuzz and wah on all sorts of instruments,check Gary Burton's Vibrafinger,amazing vibraphone sounds like you never heard before,or any of Don Ellis's work putting his trumpet through simialar effects. I even heard the Bagpipes being treated in the same way on a funk compilation. Also 'World' music opens you up to loads of new instruments,my favourite being the Kora. John Berberians 'Oud vs Fuzz' is a classic example of psychedelia meets Eastern/World music with great effect.

3. What's your favorite psychedelic album ?

When i first started getting into the 60's Psychedelic scene 'Nuggets' would've been the most important. It contained classic tracks from reasonably well known and obscure bands,also the artwork is amazing. It became a holy grail of getting hold of an original and it was a magnificent start to exploring the whole U.S. 60's Psyche scene,leading me to explore more and more,getting into the Pebbles and other re-issue labels and just trying to buy something by chance,a bit 'book by the cover' . Never could afford to buy original 7"s,far too expensive !
As for a favourite psychedelic album it all depends on what sort of mood i'm in to what genre of psyche,whether it be West Coast Pop Art Experiment Band to Can to Sun Ra to Star Trek Sound Effects lp at 16r.p.m.

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

Probably Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix jam. Don't know if any exist but have read that they were planning on meeting up.

5. Name a song or album that wouldn't necessarily fall into psychedelia but you think is? Why?

Three come to mind: Throbbing Gristle's 20 Jazz Funk Greats,Phillip Glass's Music for 18 Musicians(seems as though it has phasing effects all over it but this is intentionally created within the score) and Brian Jones Presents The Pipes of Pan at Joujouka(where he did put it through phaser effects once he brought the field recordings back to his home studio,giving it an even more eerie quality).

6. Is there an advantage in being 60's pioneers or being continuing explorers armed with those pioneers work ?

Pioneers had a blank page but people will look back to today and think we're now looking at a blank page. I think people are better off today using all the information available to put new ideas together. Through the world wide web you can find out about anything you want at the touch of a button,whereas when i was growing up it was much more sociable,going round to a friends house listening to their record collection,record shops being really important as sources of new music and advice on artists and albums. Although half the time you'd end up being talked into buying a rubbish record. All this music you use as a mental sound library that you can delve into when coming up with ideas or using as a reference.
I don't know whether it's an urban myth that Link Wray came across distorted guitar when his amp fell off from the back of his pick up truck,tearing the cone,creating a distorted sound. Whereas now you can get programs that will replicate any old style amp or pedal. Having said that dance/electronica musicians can push the boundaries of sound and music,we try to take that on board in our own lo-fi kind of way. Sometimes you feel like sounds/noise can't go any further,then you hear something new that completely changes your view point. On our second album(Everybody Knows We Got Nowhere)we locked my bass amp and cab into a cupboard,to try and eliminate ovespill onto the drums. Only to find at the end of the recording the mic had dropped on the floor and had just picked up the rumble in the cupboard but it gave us a different sound,a warmer,rounder,fuzzier sound.
It seems to me,only on what i've heard and read,that the in the 60's there was a big social and political change and counterculture was still in its infancy in Europe and the U.S.A. It must have been a very exciting time to be creating any 'Art' in that period,a period where no precedents had been set. Whereas in my experience of making music very little of this was around. When i was younger,talking to older people who'd been part of the whole 60's movement,they'd say it was exciting and they felt part of something changing and pushing things forward. If someone in their twenties asked me what the 80/90's was like,i'd have to say it was pretty shit. You had to dig deep to find decent music,the alternative scene wasn't on the radio or television. The media worth watching would have a two hour window on a friday or saturday night,The Tube,The Word,even then still mainly mainstream. That's were John Peel comes in. He championed the weird and obscure with no hidden hype agenda,no one has replaced him and i don't think they ever will. It was word of mouth,no myspace,facebook or MTV. Although it seems these have now been hi-jacked by big business.

7. Is there a band or song which you can point to and say that's the one that made me want to play music ?

I'm afraid it's not very psychedelic. Watching 'The Great Rock 'N Roll Swindle' at the age of 13 on the new Channel 4(for those of you not from the UK we only had three channels on tv until the early eighties when Channel 4 came along,then we had four !) Before that i'd been listening to my Dads' record collection,Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Lou Reed,ZZ Top,Doobie Brothers and Beatles. Then from a very early age alot of jazz through the floor boards whilst trying to get to sleep after my dad had had a few and played them very loud. Didn't appreciate it till many years later.
From the age of 5 i'd been given piano lessons,which i hated,i wanted to be out playing 'war' with my mates. I stopped when i was 11,then after watching 'Rock 'N Roll Swindle' i told my parents i wanted guitar lessons. Unfortunately the teacher i had wanted me to do finger picking in a folk style,not very punk rock,so i gave that up and bought myself a Rickenbacker dirt cheap from someone in Knowle. At that time you could pick up classic 60's instruments very cheaply as keyboards and midi instruments were the thing,supposedly the future of music. My Mum had an old art school mate,Noddy,who'd been in a band that supported Hawkwind and played the first Glastonbury. He taught me the rudiments of bass playing.
As a young impressionable teenager that strange mix of Russ Meyer and Sex Pistols in The Great Rock N' Roll Swindle gave me the whole punk D.I.Y. ethos of doing it for yourself,the ability to play wasn't the most important thing,actually getting up and doing it was that main thing. This also opened up a whole new genre of music to explore for myself,that was i felt mine,not part of my parents generation,even though i was too young to have been there.

8. Can you build a dream band of Psych Musicians?

Jack Bruce,Ginger Baker,Brian Auger,John Mclaughlin and Jimi Hendrix. Engineered by Sleazey Chris Christopherson from Throbbing Gristle. Featuring guest slots from Gary Burton and his fuzzed up vibes,Simeon from the Silver Apples on the 'Simeon' and Simon House of High Tide fame.
I'm sure if i answered this in a years time it would be completely different.

9. Name your Top Ten Psychedelic Tracks.

I'm not a big fan of top ten lists,so i've changed the question to "20 Psych' albums that have inspired me". Hope you don't mind. Some included aren't really very psychedelic but fall within 'music that changes your perspective'. Also some are compilations,not very record collector.

They're in no particular order.

Soft Machine - Volume 1
King Crimson - In the Court of the Crimson King.
Cream - Wheels of Fire.
West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band - Transparent Day(Edsel Best of)
Velvet Underground - White Light/White Heat.
Captain Beefheart - Safe as Milk.
Silver Apples - Contact.
Music Machine - Best of(Rhino records).
Miles Davis - In a Silent Way.
Can - Tago Mago.
Kraftwerk - First Album(red Cone).
Hawkwind - Doremi Fasol Latido.
Pretty Things - S.F.Sorrow.
13th Floor Elevators - Bull of the Woods(always underated,never understand why).
Monster Magnet - Spine of God/Tab.
Sweet Smoke - Sweet Smoke.
Jade Warrior - Jade Warrior.
Loop - Heavens End.
Group 1850 - Agemo's Trip to Mother Earth.
P.I.L. - Metal Box.

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

Hugo: What's your top ten Psych' songs ?

-valis: This looks quite a bit different than last week when I had this question put to me:

1. Brian Wilson Shock Treatment - The Lords Of The Infinite Cosmos
2. Loop - Burning Prisma
3. The Lucid Dream - I Got The Devil
4. The Helium Tapes - Magnolia Bloom
5. The Hair & Skin Trading Company - Levers
6. Helicon - Truth or Consequences
7. The Black Angels - Winter '68
8. The Black Strands - Before The Light Fades
9. House of Dolls - Vampire Blues
10. Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor - All You Lovers

Thanks Hugo! Best wishes on the April 19th gig with Wooden Shjips!


Anonymous said...

Another great read, Valis.... and more music I need to check out. Happy days!

Cliff. said...

'Relaxing With The Heads,' takes me back to a time filled with happy memories when I shared a house with 3 friends in Reading. One night we were playing said album so loud that eventually we could hear someone hammering at the door. I answered the door and came face to face with a hell's angel (they lived 3 doors down from us) I was asked quite politely actually as I recall, if we could turn the music down a wee bit) Great sounds though said the biker as he walked off, "Who is it?"

Hugo seems to have gotten deep down in my psyche with most of his answers. I couldn't agree more with him when he relates to much of the shite that eminated from the 80's especially.

What is it with 'Bull Of The Woods?,' it's my fave 13th Floor Elevators album and is criminally underestimated. Always good to see 'Agemo's Trip To Mother Earth' on a list but then again you're fully aware Valis of my love of that disc.

Isn't that Lucid Dream song just fantastic, love your latest top 10 mon ami.

sr-71 said...

Relaxing with the Heads = best album cover of all time.

Dead Man said...

The Heads make great music. I particularly like to listen to it while driving.