If you love instrumental, psych-rock, krautrock or extended space jams than Coburg’s Brown Spirits are for you! Their mind-melting music has found a home on Germany psych label Clostridium Records. We interviewed guitarist Tim Wold about the experimental, funky world of Brown Spirits.
When did you first pick up your instrument?
TIM WOLD: I started playing guitar when I was twelve and keyboards about two years ago
What was your first concert?
TW: My mum took me to see Eric Clapton when I was 14. He did lots of Cream songs which was great. But he still definitely maintained the attitude he’s famous for. I’m not a huge fan of the guy.
What’s an album that helped shape your ideas on music?
TW: It really is a tough one because there are so many, but I’d say Tago Mago by CAN is the gift that keeps giving, it’s been in my top 10 since I was a teenager.
How did you find psychedelic music?
TW: The three main sources were all pre-internet pretty much. Parents’ record collection, then 90’s radio like shows Loosen Up (PBS) and Galactic Zoo (RRR). Whilst my parents had all the staples like Revolver, Dark Side of the Moon etc.. it was really Peebs and RRR where I picked up on all the less accessible psych from the northern hemisphere, you know like Nuggets, ‘Elevators, Miles Davis Big Fun and Funkadelic’s Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow was also a big one for me. From there I was hooked on that era and I had strayed off weed by then, so I knew was into it for the long haul. It’s weird with Psychedelia, it’s like one of the most used terms and often mis-used in music today I reckon. And yet people’s opinion of what is psych varies so much, I guess there’s no rules.
What inspired you to start Brown Spirits? How did you meet?
TW: Ago [Soldati; drums] and I met through one of our best mates (Sam) when we started playing in a garage R&R band called Russian Roulettes back in the mid-2000’s, we had some great times and got to tour overseas. Then we always talked about doing a psych project but never really got motivated till a couple of years ago. We got together and tracked & mixed our first album on tape in my bedroom and it then got picked up by our label in Germany but at that point we were purely a recording project.
Few months on, our album got released in Europe and we were fortunate enough to have Go Kurosawa from Kikagaku Moyo buy a copy in downtown Tokyo. Out of the blue we received a random message from Go asking us if we wanted to play with Kikagaku when they did their 2018 Oz tour. Naturally we were like, yeah we’re keen! But we don’t exist yet! Cause we didn’t have a live set together or a bass player. So we missed the boat that year but it was the shot in the arm we needed to recruit a bass player and start doing shows. So that’s how it all came about really.
Where did the band’s Italian sound library influence come from?
TW: Being a fan of soundtracks and often the psyched out kitsch songs you find on Library records. Library music was massive in UK & Italy back in the ‘60s/’70s and yet most of the obscure stuff is only being reissued now. The Italians in particular were way more experimental and incorporated a lot of funk, breakbeats, fuzz pedals and had a recording budget that a lot of independent bands didn’t have cause it was for TV production and recorded as a Licensing investment for producers so there was (I’m assuming) money floating around. Ago is Italian and comes from a soul-funk background, his influence with deep funk is strong in our music and so I guess finding those grooves was inevitable!
How do you go about writing a song? Are they born from jamming? How important is improvisation to your process?
TW: The song writing Ago and I have done on each album will start with a very loose idea and we jam it out (me on bass), improvise and record it after about 2-3 takes. Its more about the rhythm and the vibe rather than structure. A lot of it ended up being accidental so we rarely put anything on paper. From there we kinda sculpted the tunes and added keys/guitar last.
We’re very grateful now to have Ash Buscombe in the band now because he is solid as fuck on bass and he picks up stuff really quick, it feels like a real band now he’s on board so we’re excited to see what the future holds as a 3-piece.
Can you tell us a little bit about the musical dynamic between you two?
TW: Ago and I learnt a lot about each other’s playing style when we were in Russian Roulettes, so giving each other space to improvise now in Brown Spirits comes pretty natural. Having Ash too who is really intuitive to Ago’s fills and my guitar freakouts kind of gives us all a musical grounding. We’re not a jazz band but its nice to think that we are working off that sensibility and hoping we get to do more music in a free jazz style as things progress.
You record on your Tascam Portastudio 414 tape machine; what’s the advantage of doing things this way?
TW: Doing stuff at home on tape means albums cost us nothing to record and we can take our time getting the drums sounds we like. Its ¼ inch tape so driving things so they are naturally in the red is easy and you don’t get the clipping issues like with digital. Also avoiding computers till mixing time means being limited to four tracks on tape adds a creative challenge. Once we have tracked songs and laid down the parts, we flip the tape over and play it backwards so we get to use all those tape loops for sound effects for our songs too.
Your songs are instrumentals; how do you come up with your song titles?
TW: Generally, Ago will put some thought into these it can be random but usually there is a backstory to each one whether it be an event or a feeling the music conjures up I guess. I’m not too fussy with my titles, often I will just opt for a cosmic sounding dichotomy and if it works it works.
What’s the most memorable show you’ve ever played?
TW: They have all been so fun, if I had to narrow it down… I’d say our first album launch (which was our 2nd ever time playing as a live band, in mid-2018) and also our most recent one with Kikagaku Moyo felt like a ripper. I guess we’ll always be our own worse critics. Each show has had its own charm.
Brown Spirits Vol 3 is coming soon on Clostridium Records! What can you tell us about it?
TW: We’re pretty pumped about Vol 3. The album is pressed and stock should be in distro soon. Some might say it’s hard to categorize the record however it’s got elements of Krautrock, Funk, Psychedelia and freeform experimentation.
Was there any challenges making it?
TW: No real challenges making it, but it with everything going on the in the world right now might be more of a challenge releasing it! But we’ll get there soonish. Our label boss Andy has been awesome to us and we’re stoked to be on Clostridium again. We have also recorded another album titled Vol 2. back in 2018 but that won’t see the light for a while yet. All in good time!
Lastly, why is music important to you?
TW: Like all of us really in bands, you find your life revolving around it without even questioning it ‘cause you love it so much and it’s in your blood. I guess going through life without taking the time to create something new each year is unimaginable. Also being in bands with people we dig means we get to have plenty of fun along the way.