Pipe-eye’s Cook Craig on new album Dream Themes plus new song and video premiere

Original pic courtesy of Flightless Records. Handmade mixed-media art by B.

Cook Craig returns with Pipe-eye release number four, Dream Themes. The record is adventurous and playful, crafting stories without needing words, in the tradition of the greatest soundtracks and Library Music, but with his own twist. Gimmie chatted with Cook in-depth for an hour about Pipe-eye’s beginnings, songwriting, his creative process, new passions that emerged in lockdown, finding a love of jazz in his “twilight years”, we get a little peak into his home life, and of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard touring. Today we’re premiering the song and clip for first single ‘Ancient 5G Aliens’ along with an extract of the chat; the full interview will appear in our next print zine, Gimmie Issue 5.

Where did the title of your new album Dream Themes come from?

COOK CRAIG: I had the idea that all of the songs on the new album would be theme songs, instrumental. I wanted to match them with the song titles, that they were weird dreams; they weren’t real TV shows. I thought it just sounded cool too. 

It does have a nice ring to it—Dreeeammm Themmmes!

CC: [Laughs] Yeah! And, I googled it and there weren’t many things called dream themes.

Did this collection of songs come from dreams?

CC: Kind of. Just wacky day dreams. Day dreams about my cat and my dog [laughs]. ‘Detective Dogington’ is about my dog, Homer. He’s really snoopy and walks around investigating things. ‘Martina Catarina’ is about my cat, Martina. She’s real crazy, she’s like a kitten. 

Are all of the songs on the album from something in your life?

CC: Yeah, or things like current events, like ‘Ancient 5G Aliens’ is about deadshit conspiracy theorists [laughs]. I usually write the music first and then try to think up titles and themes that I think match the vibe of the music. It’s what naturally comes out when I sit down. I wasn’t going for an overall theme or vibe for the album. In terms of the titles, they’re not particularly linked.

For you are the songs linked musically?

CC: Definitely. I pretty much wrote all of the songs at the one time, within a week. It was actually on my honeymoon.

Is that where ‘Let’s Get Married’ comes from?

CC: Yeah. We got married in our backyard the day before the very first Covid lockdown. We did that because we had an overseas wedding planned, but had to can it. We went to an Airbnb for two weeks and were locked down, and that’s when I wrote all of those songs. The Airbnb was really isolated in a costal country town, we didn’t really have that much to do, so I’d sit down for a couple of hours every day in the morning and wrote a song at a time.

I’m guessing just having got married and being on your honeymoon you would have been in a really great mood and that might have helped your creativity and productivity.

CC: I definitely had some gusto! Normally I’m not like that, I usually take ages to do anything. When I have an idea, it doesn’t take me long to write a song, but it takes me a while to get started and to get motivated. 

Is there anything that helps you get motivated?

CC: I have to just sit down and force myself to do it sometimes, I’m so busy with my other bands, with Pipe-eye I find it hard to get the time to sit down and write a song, or I don’t feel like it because I’ve been at band practice all week and I’m mentally fatigued or musically fatigued. Sometimes I’ll just sit down for a week and write a bunch of songs, and that will last me for the next six months.

How did the song we’re premiering ‘Ancient 5G Aliens’ come together?

CC: I made a lot of the songs on the album to drum machines that I had programmed. Later on, I got Cav (Michael Cavanagh the drummer who plays in King Gizz) to drum on it. I was going for a fast afro-esque groove, looped that a heaps of times, and it turned into a song from there. The title was inspired by the History Channel, it’s really funny now. It’s all about Ancient Aliens [laughs], it’s all about that crummy, really trash kind of TV. 

Ha! I remember watching the first couple of episodes of Ancient Aliens thinking, ok, maybe there’s a little something here, but then as the series continued on, it just really, really started to stretch things and make some wild claims. 

CC: Yeah. I was sold on it! Still am I reckon! [laughs].

Was it a conscious choice to make this album instrumental (of course besides the song ‘Chakra’ that has the part where the word is said over and over)?

CC: I started it without any intention of doing that and as it went on, I thought a lot of the songs were strong without vocals. I thought it would be cool to take a different direction for a change and focus really hard on the music itself, rather than… I normally make songs then I write the lyrics, the vocals as an afterthought. I wanted to change it up. 

Was there a freedom or relief that came from not having to write words for the songs this time around?

CC: A little bit. I like writing lyrics, but making the music is definitely my favourite part. 

What’s the first song you wrote for this album?

CC: ‘Let’s Get Married’. I wrote it when I was engaged.

Awww. How did your partner feel when you showed her?

CC: She liked it. She likes it when I sing though, and I don’t think she quite got the whole instrumental thing [laughs]. She was still appreciative.

‘Oakhill Avenue’ was the last one I wrote. I wrote it to fill a gap in the songs in terms of vibe, another slow kind of chill vibe song. I wanted to do something in a different time signature that wasn’t in 4/4. 

Most of the songs are fairly in my comfort zone. I feel like when I do Pipe-eye stuff it’s never that challenging, because I’m writing everything myself; I don’t’ necessarily write hard parts. In general, it was challenging to find sounds that I hadn’t used on albums before. I’ve done keyboards and synths a lot, I tried to push that a fair bit more on this record.

I noticed that. Do you ever bounce your ideas of someone else when you’re working on Pipe-eye material?

CC: It’s pretty much just me. Sometimes it’s good to get Michael, who drummed on it, I’ll send him a song and not really give him much instruction on what kind of drums to play, which is good because sometimes he sends it back and it’s completely different to what I would have thought of, and I’ll roll with that.

As the album progressed and evolved where there many other changes you noticed in the songs?

CC: The main one was just deciding to make it instrumental. I was halfway through when I decided to do that. I just plod along and slowly do things.

No stress! I assume with other projects you’re a part of it could get real hectic. With Pipe-eye you have control over everything yourself and no urgency to do anything, you can just take your time.

CC: Exactly! I don’t play live with Pipe-eye, it’s just a recording project. There’s less stress to do albums by deadline. It’s not like I have to do an album to do an album tour and promote it. I take my time and do it as it comes… 

When I first listened to Dream Themes, I was wondering is you’d be listening to a lot of soundtracks and Library Music?

CC: Yeah, 100%, I always listen to that kind of stuff…

There’s also a film clip to go with ‘Ancient 5G Aliens’; what can you tell us about it?

CC: It’s made by a guy called Jake Armstrong, he’s from The States. I learnt about him because Ambrose hit him up for a Murlocs clip; he did the ‘Skyrocket’ clip. I hit him up out of the blue and he was keen. It’s animation. His stuff is pretty kooky and playful, but there’s an underlying vibe of darkness, I guess. With this clip, he’s never done anything like it before. He fully went animation, they kind of look like PlayStation 2 graphics! It’s real cool. It’s kind of got a storyline, there are these two aliens fighting and it’s in a cityscape. It looks like the old kind of not-quite-there graphics, that PlayStation 2 kind of graphics.

Yeah, I remember those and Sega and Atari and all the games! 

CC: [Laughs] Yeah. I still game a bit. I got a PlayStation 5 recently! There’s not too many games out on it yet, so I haven’t got to play it too much. I was playing Ghost of Tsushima where you get to play a samurai, it’s a bit like playing open world. Pretty nerdy!

Pipe-eye Dream Themes out November 26th through Flightless Records.

Brown Spirits’ Tim Wold: “Tago Mago by CAN is the gift that keeps giving, it’s been in my top 10 since I was a teenager”

Handmade collage by B.

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.

Recorded at PBS 106.7FM Melbourne by Jeremy Smith for Studio 5 Live on 21 December 2019. Video by Agostino Soldati.

Please check out: BROWN SPIRITS. BS on Facebook. Clostridium Records.