Sunday, August 11, 2019
A Sunday Conversation With Psychlona
When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, and Simon and Garfunkel, the first time I ever heard Kiss's "Detroit Rock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just so vicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I listened to music. I've had a few minor epiphany's since then, when you come across a band that just brings something new and revolutionary to your ears. What have been your musical epiphany moments?
Phil: I came from a fairly musical background. My dad was a singer and also played a mean harmonica. Having said that, there was nothing in the record collection at home which interested me. I dabbled with the odd pop group stuff when i was a kid and liked some of the old glam rock stuff from bands like The Sweet and T Rex. It wasn't until one night when i was listening to the radio for the usual top 40 countdown when an trailer for a different show interrupted proceedings. Bang!!!! In a space of 60 seconds I heard my first snippets of songs from The Stranglers, The Clash, The Damned and The Buzzcocks. That was it - I was hooked and have been ever since. I knew a kid who had an electric guitar and 'needed' that guitar badly. I got together a bunch of albums that I didn't want anymore and traded them for the guitar. It sucked so badly that the manufacturer was too ashamed to display the brand name on it. So guitar X sucked but it was mine. First band at the age of 13 and ready to take on the world. What was the question again?
Dave: There were a few. Oddly, my parents' U2 records were one...although they suck now. Then Faith No More (The Real Thing is still one of my favourite ever albums), AC/DC, Iron Maiden from my cousins' influence. Then around 16/17 discovered all the punk bands and about the same time Kyuss, and then QOTSA were just coming to the fore, this was the big one for me and actually made me pick up a guitar properly with the aim of doing something (I'd flirted with trying to play when I was younger).
Martyn: For me I grew up in a house listening to the mamas & papas, simply red etc my mother never really new what music was.
LUCKILY I have an older brother that dragged me away from that & introduced me to the likes of iron maiden/Metallica/megadeth I was soon hooked onto the sounds of guitar slaying solos & went to my first proper ' rock concert ' which was Metallica at Earl's Court - LONDON - (2003ish) Ok I was a bit late to the scene but come on I was born in 1990!!
Scott: My parents weren't really 'into' music but my grandad loved jazz, so from the age of 8 or so I listened to his records - Sidney Bechet, Oscar Peterson, Chris Barber, plus some real Coltrane-style free jazz. Those guys made so much noise, especially the drummers.
And then, when I was 13 or so, I started listening to John Peel whilst I did my homework. The stuff he played was like jazz to me - loud, quiet, violent, no blueprint - not like the stuff I heard anywhere else. So I started listening to every John Peel show and, around 1988/9 heard bands like The Jesus Lizard, Fudge Tunnel, Fugazi & Mudhoney. That was it: I didn't know what they looked like but this stuff was for me - and the drums were LOUD!
I started playing drums in a Mudhoney covers band when I was 15 (I'd learnt all the songs from SuperfuzzBigMuff and Mudhoney). Around the same time I saw a SubPop tour show with Soundgarden, Tad, Hole and Mudhoney (so that's what they look like!!!) These guys weren't cool, they kind of looked like me, but they had fucking soul! (I should point out, as an overweight, middle class ginger kid, there were few opportunities to be cool, so these bands were proof I didn't need to be cool, I just needed to play like I give a shit).
And I worked in a record shop (HMV) for years too - I listened to everything that came in (I was the music buyer and used to order pretty much everything that interested me) – we ran it like Championship Vinyl in the film High Fidelity because we all loved music in general. I loved seeing people walk in and browse, then just stop and listen to something that's got their attention, not knowing who it is or what they look like. That's a pure way to discover new stuff.
Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?
Phil: Usually a riff or an idea of a chord sequence quite often featured in a dream where i would be playing a similar tune live with a band in front of a massive crowd. Sounds great except what usually happens in the dream is that I forget the words or chords or my amp breaks - usual disaster stuff which so far (touch wood) hasn't happened in real life. Is that tempting fate? Anyway - so the riff turns into a full song, often using something junked a long time ago which now has a useful middle 8 or something. We've got loads of material which we loved for a while but then got bored of and it never left the rehearsal room.
Dave: Always working on new riffs. Oftentimes I'll just turn up - the jossticks get lit - and I'll play something that enters my head there and then, and the other guys will join in. Sometimes this turns into a half hour jam, other times I'll be told to go stand in a corner until I think of something better. Alternatively, Scott starts playing a beat and we'll come in with something that fits. Then the process of wittling down everything into a structured song begins, lyrics etc.
Martyn: Phil or Dave will come up with a riff / melody / tune what ever you like to call it then me & Scott will play along sometimes it'll work really well , other times we end up just having an almighty 30-40 minute jam which will blow our own minds that much that we'll forget the tune the next week - this is where recording every band practice now comes into place. We'll listen back on previous recordings take bits & bats from different snippets of the 'jams' & then a song is born!
Scott: Jam, jam, jam, Dave or Phil have an idea we expand as a band, jam, jam, jam, keep bits we like, jam, jam, jam, knit it together, jam.
Who has influenced you the most?
Phil: Pretty much every great band either on record or seeing play live has been an influence. To name some major influences: Ramones - was a massive fan and still am, The Clash - same as Ramones, 1960's Phil Spector produced bands (Ronettes etc), Motorhead, Fu Manchu, Dead Kennedys, Kyuss etc....
Dave: Love the attitude and anger of The Stooges, Neil Young, Ramones, Dead Boys - technically limited stuff but the desperation to connect through a few simple chords is compelling. Then obviously Kyuss, Eddie Glass & Brant Bjork eras of Fu Manchu, Nebula, Sir James Hendrix, ZZ Top, Spacemen 3, Elevators...
Martyn: Nearly every gig I have been to has been a big influence on me, but just lately (Sep 2018) we Psychlona minus Phil went to HRH Doom Vs Stoner & saw Elder which totally blew me away !!
They changed my whole concept of a 'concert' / 'gig' & made me realise its an actual show you are putting on for people, if you're not going to put in 100% don't bother at all!!
Scott: John Peel, Nirvana, Mudhoney, Fugazi, Hunter Thompson, Sonic Youth, Fudge Tunnel, Carcass, Aphex Twin, Gram Parsons, Mike Patton, John Zorn, Brant Bjork, Jello Biafra, Bill Hicks, Can, John Cooper Clarke, William Burroughs, The Clash, Buzzcocks, Dinosaur Jr, James Brown and about 12 billion more.
Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?
Phil: Constantly listening to new (on me) bands so subconsciously ripping off other bands left right and centre..... Curent bands I love include Greenleaf, Fu Manchu, Nebula (now they've returned), Dozer (have they got back together?). Also listen to a lot of old more obscure stuff like Bloodrock plus current fantastic punk rock bands like Against Me.
Dave: Always looking for new stuff to listen to and influence me. A few recent ones - Natural Child, Blackwater Fever, Endless Boogie. The Mississippi country blues stuff is another big thing for me at the moment, Junior Kimbrough, RL Burnside etc.. New pedals, sounds, gear, people, each and every moment is an influence.
Martyn: Checking out new bands day in day out, but also sticking to my usual Wo fat (still can't believe I'm on the same label as them!!) / uncle acid /fu Manchu / kyuss etc ... I could go on forever
I like listening to different sounds/effects they use different tuning What equipment they use (rig wise) / why they use it ?
Scott: Always listening to new music - I get bored of genres really quickly and it stops me trying out new things when we're jamming if I listen to the same type of stuff all the time. I like strolling around BandCamp, watching support bands (as well as main acts) and trawling about record shops for inspiration but am always happy for suggestions and recommendations from anyone. I'm currently working my way through the Parliament/ Funkadelic catalogue - George Clinton may be my favourite person at the moment, but that could change in the next five minutes.
We're all a product of our environment. Tell us about the band's hometown and how that reflects in the music?
Phil: My hometown is Bradford in the north of England. It's a pretty grizzly place with not much to boast about although we've given birth to some well known serial killers over the years. It was once one of the UK's wealthiest cities due to the textile industry which was massive here. We still have many old 'work of art' buildings with lots of ornate stone carving etc - a real showcase city many years ago. Lots of old textile mill buildings remain - in fact our rehearsal room 'The Burning Cave' is situated in one of them. Unfortunately the city has suffered many years in decline since the 1970's with high unemployment figures, poor housing conditions, lack of commercial interest/input, racial tension etc adding to the problems but the last few years have seen a steady increase in much more positive activity and the city is becoming a vibrant, colourful place to live again. We've got many new bars and clubs, new shopping centres, great theatres, plus people seem to be getting on better. One thing we have always had though and still do is an eclectic, vibrant musical scene which as with the rest of the city seems to be on the way up again. So going back to the initial question, we've had reviews saying the gritty Yorkshire spirit comes across in our sound although this is purely unintentional (we've also been called genuine desert rockers etc although last time i checked we were low on deserts in the UK!!). The lyrics to Down In The Valley are ripped straight from my early teenage years activities. Take a listen - I'm particularly proud of the final verse which is based around a bunch of us terrifying the local Hells Angels chapter by invading their camp in the forest dressed in white robes and hoods carrying burning crosses and chanting in true devil worshipping fashion. Brilliant!!!
Dave: Live just outside Bradford. The inner city is an urban sprawl of vagabonds, derelict buildings, drunks and dealers. There's also a bad side to it.... Seriously though there's some awesome architecture here and the people are pretty down to earth. The main thing is that people are starting to cast off the attitude that the place is just a dump and won't ever improve. The grit and grime of the place is definitely present on Mojo Rising though.
Martyn: Well Phil's pretty much given you the low down of the place we like to call Bradford but being from Yorkshire it's pronounced 'Bratfud'.
You can hear this lovely Yorkshire accent in most of mojo rising .
Bradford is on the rise though but for me I would like to leave and venture somewhere new & 'off the grid '
Scott: I'm from Wolverhampton, about 20 miles from Birmingham, meaning it's just accepted you love Sabbath, Zeppelin and Judas Priest - like The Beatles in Liverpool. Heavy music was everywhere, to the point I didn't really appreciate it until I was in my late teens (I used to see Robert Plant in my local record shop at weekends - he said my Alice Donut t-shirt was 'cool' and I don't think I really cared, sorry Percy!). But when I moved to Bradford for university I was surprised how similar it was to my hometown and that everyone at the places I went to LOVED those Birmingham bands too and anything that came from them. Both towns are multicultural, distinctly un-fancy but with mountains of creativity, swagger and attitude - if towns have a type of walk, Bradford has a badass stoner-strut.
Where'd the band name come from?
Phil: Good question. Dave? Actually I think we were just throwing names into the hat and it was one that Martyn n me had come up with at work? I might be wrong....
Dave: Had a billion different names floating about, the reason we chose Psychlona is lost in the annals of time, but to describe us as a vortex of psychedelic rock noise it definitely works.
Martyn: I think remembering a while back we were going on the whole fuzz / psychedelia / trippy name feeling & came up with Psychlona!!
Scott: As the sixth drummer of the band, I decided not to ask where the name came from, in case that was the last thing my predecessors had asked.
You have one chance, what movie are you going to write the soundtrack for?
Phil: For me it's a no brainer. My top film of all time is Jaws so we'd have to write loads of shark attack, water skier munching type tunes. Song titles could include - 'We're Gonna Need A Bigger Boat', 'I Aint Got No Spit', 'Oh shit - look at the size of those teeth' etc......Imagine all that scary cello stuff laced with plenty of fuzz/wah......
Dave: I'm going to write the soundtrack to an as yet unmade film starring Daniel Baldwin and Steven Seagall as a detective duo investigating the disappearance of a prized falconry glove. The music will mostly be a rip off of Axel F. Samuel L Jackson in the third role to make it look not as bad as it is.
Martyn: One of my favourite movies is the Crow, I think we could write a bad ass fuzzed out tune for Brandon Lee's (Eric Draven in the film) Hangman's Joke.
Scott: The Psychlona biopic, "Mo' Fuzz". Or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (I'd keep White Rabbit in though).
You now write for a music publication (The Ripple Effect?). You're going to write a 1,000 word essay on one song. Which would it be and why?
Phil: Tough question as I have many 'favourite' songs which change frequently. I guess I'd have to choose one from London Calling by The Clash (which is the greatest album ever by the way) and would probably go for Rudie Can't Fail. Joe Strummer was in my opinion one of the greatest song writers of all time and the lyrics were very clever and could throw you off in the wrong direction completely. White Riot for example was seen by the uneducated masses to be a two minute stab at inciting racial hatred (and adopted by fascist bootboys at the time) when in fact it was the total opposite describing the envy of the band when seeing the way the black community stood up for their rights. Rudie Can't Fail is a great example of a guy defying authority and not conforming to the stereotypical nine to five way of life.
Martyn: Where is my mind - Pixies - gives me the best feeling in the world that opening melody .... still get goosebumps now
Scott: Love Will Tear Us Apart - Joy Division. For me, the greatest, most perfect song ever written.
Come on, share with us a couple of your great, Spinal Tap, rock and roll moments?
Phil: Well we've had six drummers so we can give the Tap dudes a run for their money any day. This band is still fairly new so Spinal Tap moments will no doubt come but I've previously been in bands who've
1 - broken up live on stage
2 - been too drunk to actually play anything which resembled a tune
3 - been bottled by Hells Angels live on stage (hence the pleasure in the Down in the Valley lyrics)
4 - fallen off stages
5 - oh yeah - just seen Scott's answer below - Martyn dying from a bursting bladder on the motorway was epic..........
Dave: Having six drummers definitely rivals Spinal Tap. We're working on Scott's 'spontaneous' combustion.
Martyn: Taking a piss on the side of the motorway on route to Redrum (Stafford) I downed my 2 hour drive supply of beer, to then get stranded on the motorway about 10 minutes into the journey .... 5 hours later we got there! Then we got a traffic violation fine on the way back.
I think I remember the break up live on stage as phil mentioned above, we were supporting them back when we were in punk bands, it was pretty funny to be honest :)
I think there is still definitely some rock n roll moments to be had on this European tour.
Scott: Martyn's weak bladder 10 miles into a 150 mile journey. Drumkits that move around stages (in different directions) on multiple occasions. Playing entire sets in the dark. Playing in a squat whilst being physically assaulted by a transvestite.
Tell us about playing live and the live experience for you and for your fans?
Phil: I love playing live - end of!! It's great working on stuff in the rehearsal room and releasing the album was next level but i'd give it all up so long as I could still get on a stage in front of a bunch of appreciative dudes. Would love to play in front of a massive festival crowd just once and I'd die a happy man. We put a lot of time and effort into our rehearsing and are pretty disciplined. Hopefully that comes across in our live performance. Come along to a show and see for yourself.
Dave: Playing live is one of the best things you can do. We didn't play a lot when we first started out but instead concentrated on getting our material right and practicing the fuck out of it. Since the album release we've stepped our live game up and I think we're seeing the fruits of the many hours we spent in the studio together. As Phil said, come see for yourself!
Martyn: I love playing live , there's nothing better than practicing like mad for an upcoming show & nailing it on the night !! We recently supported dead meadow & had a sound check the sound engineer just gave us that sort of look to say wow use are loud as fuck!! But good loud as fuck HaHa!!
Some people get the music some don't ? It's all part of the package really .....
Scott: As a drummer you have your head down a lot. But when you look up and everyone else in the room is just in, there, going for it, there's nothing like it. We don't posture, we don't have a uniform, we just play the best we can, as loud as we can. Playing live is why we spend so much time jamming, getting to the point we can get everyone watching to the same mood we're at. The Mojo Rising album launch in December was one of those moments - those guys I play in the band with, they're really fucking good, they're all really cool, and there was a definite 'coming together' where we were all, audience included, just right in the moment. That there is why we do it.
Tell us about the first song you ever wrote?
Phil: Think the first song I ever wrote was called something really naff like 'Don't Let em Grind You Down' - original eh? That was with my first ever punk band aged about 14 and think it was so bad that it never left the rehearsal room. If you ever heard us play and witnessed the stuff that got a proper public unveiling you can only begin to imagine how bad that one was.
Dave: Wrote music for a three chord wonder in my punk rock infancy no doubt but wouldn't be able to remember which. First song I wrote music and lyrics for was some anti-authority piece called 'Soldier'. Three chords again!
Martyn: First ever song I wrote ?? Hmmm I was in a 'punk' band when I was like 16 with a couple of mates we thought we was the bees knees influenced by motley crue
Think it was called fuck your authority
Scott: The first song I wrote was called Medicine (about me getting fed up with consumerism and constantly being sold to). I'm genuinely proud of it and the guys I was playing with at the time (Dave and Robin from The Frankling Mint) made it so much better than I'd imagined.
What piece of your music are particularly proud of?
Phil: Really pleased with some of the stuff from Mojo Rising. Standout tune for me would probably be Down in The Valley 'cos I love belting out those lyrics and the last part still makes me laugh. Honestly you had to be there..............
Dave: Like the rest of the guys, Mojo Rising is without doubt the best thing I've worked on to date. I'm also honoured that this album I recorded in our little praccy room has had a commercial release. However, there's always room for improvement!
Martyn: Mojo rising - the whole album
Scott: I'm so proud of the way Mojo Rising has turned out – so much better than I'd ever imagined and the response has been incredible. I don't want to start gushing, but this is the band I've been waiting to join – all great musicians, they play hard, and I love all the songs. And Dave has got the ear for production – he's the only person who's ever told me to play louder!
What makes a great song?
Phil: A great song for me is one which grabs your attention from start to finish and goes straight onto repeat play. Three of my all time top tunes are: Rudie Can't Fail by The Clash. Great song full of groovy hooks and ska rhythms, Police Truck by Dead Kennedys. Those three opening chords and drumroll intro still make me shiver plus the lyrics are typical Jello Biafra uber political/controversial. Whitewater by Kyuss has everything you could wish for. Mellow intro, hard n heavy main section and chilled run out. If I could write a tune like that....................
Oh yeah, almost forgot. I'm very proud of our album which we recorded ourselves in the rehearsal room with a brand new drummer (number six). In fact I'm proud of the band in general but don't tell the rest of the guys.....
Dave: Depends, and I think it's highly subjective. I guess you just need to connect with it in some way, either through the lyrics or the music or both. There'll be a feel or mood that just grabs you and won't let go. Some songs might pummel and you're energised...others might send you drifting off into the ether. A good song elevates.
Martyn: For me a great song is one with not many lyrics & letting the music take you to that ambient state of mind giving you an upper while slowly bringing you back down . - (Dead roots stirring does this for me)
Scott: It can be the quietest song or the loudest song but it's got to have Soul. Meat on the bones. That's the difference between Taylor Swift and Dolly Parton (Jolene is a heavy, HEAVY song. And she's playing from her heart).
Who today, writes great songs? Who just kicks your ass? Why?
Phil: Elder seem to get better with each release but have maybe gone a bit too 'prog' for me recently. The new Greenleaf album kicks serious ass and ticks all my boxes. They've got great energy live too. Gotta love Fu Manchu although the last few albums have dropped away a little. Laura Jane Grace from Against Me is a great songwriter. Weedpecker from Poland are cool as are Palm Desert also from Poland.
Dave: One of my favourite songwriters is David Lowery of Cracker. I'm into his sardonic style and the music kicks ass too. Elder's Dead Roots Stirring was a masterpiece of technical songwriting, although it's a few years old now. Is Roky Erickson still writing.....?!
Scott: If Eddie Glass sticks to the great songs and fuzzy guitars, I'm sure the next Nebula album will be amazing. I love the Eddie/ Ruben era Nebula – Eddie's guitar and Ruben's drums are amazing but the songs were great too. The songs on Charged are some of the best fuzzed psychedelic around. More please.
Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?
Phil: Digital is great when you're on the move and just wanna blast some stuff through the earphones. But you can't pick it up and gaze at the artwork. Cd's are great for the car. You can pick em up but you gotta squint real hard at the small cover. Vinyl is fab. full size artwork, genuine crackles and the bag it comes with looks badass walking home from the record store!! Throw coloured vinyl and a gatefold sleeve into the equation and you've got the full package.
Dave: Definitely vinyl for the complete package - the full experience of listening to and owning an album. Streaming sites are wonderful though, for discovering new music, listening at work or on the move. But definitely buy physical if you really like an artist - other than attending shows and buying merch it's the best way to support and keep us going!
Martyn: For me digital all the way, I'm a young dude (compared to the rest of the band) & it makes life easier
For the last 6 months though I've recently started to collect records I mean how can I not when our album has been released on it with CTR.
Scott: I love vinyl, always have, because I like everything you get with it – the warmth, the information, the artwork is a 3-in-1 for me. But I hate those bands that hate digital because it's 'ruining the industry'. Is it fuck. Digital and streaming has helped me discover music I simply would never have been aware of through traditional formats, I just couldn't afford it. Boutique labels like Ripple and Cursed Tongue are the real music industry, they've found a niche and have exposed us to bands and music we never would have found without, giving people affordable downloads and streams or limited special edition options to serve everyone, whether a rooted fan or someone looking for something new. And the streaming sites have helped too, whether you think they pay enough or not. I mean, how else would Psychlona have gotten on podcasts and Spotify playlists with our heroes without the benefit of digital?
Whiskey or beer? And defend your choice
Phil: Love beer, not so much whiskey. Do like a sneaky drop of vodka. Gotta stick with beer though. I discovered it at an early age and it's never let me down. It has tried to kill me on several occasions though......
Dave: It's beer. So much choice these days, I've made it a personal mission to try them all. Twice.
Martyn: Hmmmm hard choice really depends the mood you're in ?? Do I like a few quite pints of lager or a full blown night getting totally of my face on a certain whiskey? But I've chilled out on the drink over the last year due to my daughter being born , so I'll take a lager, pipe n slippers n sit in front of the tv :)
Scott: Whisky. Peaty single malt or oak aged bourbon. Beer, cask. Who would win in a fight? Whisky. Every time.
We, at the Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. What's your home town, and when we get there, what's the best record store to lose ourselves in? What's next for the band? Any final comments or thoughts you'd like to share with our readers, the waveriders?
Phil: Our hometown Bradford doesn't have any record stores anymore. They all got swallowed up by the mighty Amazon etc. HMV is still there (just) but due to shut down anytime soon. A trip into Leeds is the only way for a browse through some decent vinyl. 2018 was a great year for Psychlona. The highlights were the signings with Ripple Music and Cursed Tongue Records - massive thanks to Todd and Niels for that. We released our debut album 'Mojo Rising'. We made a great new friend in the shape of Geoff (Atom Heart Mutha) Leppard and also made bonds with some great bands - Red Spector, Loomer (again), Flex Bison to name a few. 2019 is already shaping up real good. We've got a couple of hometown shows in February followed by writing for the next album and working hard in the rehearsal room. May brings us to our joint tour with our brothers from another mother and fellow Ripple Family dudes Salem's Bend. We've got a few UK gigs together which includes two festivals before we head across the channel to Belgium, Germany, Denmark (Fuzztival), Germany again and lastly The Netherlands before heading back to the UK. That's gonna be a blast and a half!!! Back into the rehearsal room for some demoing and maybe album recording if all goes well. We've got HRH Doom V Stoner festival in September plus whatever else comes our way before then. We also have some invites in place for USA shows but that might have to wait until next year. So all good for us. Keep riding those waves guys and we're coming to a town near you real soon.
Dave: You forgot the Record Cafe, although they don't want to stock our record!!! There's also Grandpa's Basement which has a huge collection of second hand records (including a full Elvis room!) and Retro Republic, both in Shipley...