Oh Sees and Damaged Bug’s John Dwyer: “You should make as much of your work and art as you can. You’re only here for a short amount of time!”

Photos by Gimmie; handmade collage B.

Los Angeles-based musician John Dwyer likes to make stuff, he keeps busy making inventive and interesting records as well as outta this world paintings. Gimmie’s editor recently spoke to John for her forthcoming book speaking with underground musicians on creativity, DIY, navigating life as a creative and life in general—coming soon! We wanted to share a little of the chat with you.

JOHN DWYER: I’m with my girlfriend down in Joshua Tree, rather Twentynine Palms, it’s hot as fuck and we’re sitting in the shade by the pool.

Nice! Are you just having a little holiday?

JD: Yeah. It’s a two-hour drive from where we live. We’ve obviously been at home quite a bit, so we had our friend Shannon come over and watch the dog, and just rented a small little house down here with a pool for three days… just to take a break from being around each other constantly in a different environment.

Touring is such a huge part of what you do; how do you feel about not being able to tour right now?

JD: I think it’s shit [laughs], but there’s also not much that can be done about it. It’s a big part of our income, luckily we toured so much last year that everybody is well set for a minute. I think the band is collecting unemployment as we speak; it’s for freelance workers and that’s essentially what they are. I 1099’d them meaning, they’re contractors for my band.

Mostly it’s just the psychic bruise of not being able to travel. I love playing shows, I love travelling. I love going to all the same places; we play the same places because I love them, it’s nothing outside of, we play the same clubs because we like the people that work there. We like going to the same cities, eating at the same joints and seeing friends—everything seems very distant right now. It seems like things are getting worse, so we’ll see if there’s any sort of light at the end of tunnel for music. It’s a real fucked time to be a performer.

Why is music and art important to you?

JD: It’s all that I want to do. I don’t surf or anything. I don’t have anything else. It’s what I wanted to do since I was kid, outside of drugs, it was my first real interest. Watching other people create their own show spaces and doing whatever the fuck they wanted with music meant that I could very much do the same and I followed in their footsteps. Then you work together with other people in DIY scenarios and it becomes a network or dare I even say, a scene. I love it, I still love it. I love writing. Right now I’m writing a ton of music! I have so much shit coming out this year it’s going to be nauseating to anybody who likes to complain about that aspect of my career.

I don’t know why people would want to complain, it’s as easy as, if you don’t like it, don’t listen. It’s so weird to me that people fixate on things they don’t like.

JD: Oh, yeah, I tell people to fuck off all of the time. Lots of areas of the internet are just a psychic toilet. That being said, I catch myself all of the time wanting to talk shit, and constantly have to reprimand myself in my head. I’m trying not to do that more and more as I get older because it’s just exactly it, it’s worthless. The world is so fucked up right now we don’t need any more of that shit.

This year I’ve had a really high output of interviews/work and I feel that some “friends” rather than support and encourage me they kind of give me a hard time and try to make me feel guilty for being so productive. I like being busy.

JD: Oh, Bianca, fuck ‘em! The classics are always right: haters are always gonna hate. I learned at a very young age, which I think you’ll agree, is just to live well. Don’t take the bait on shit like that. The more work you do the better. You’re doing it to keep the wolf from the door [laughs]. It’s good. You should make as much of your work and art as you can. You’re only here for a short amount of time!

My girlfriend yesterday just heard the old cliché phrase: opinions are like assholes, everybody has one. [Laughs]. It’s absolutely true!

After making music for so long; what still makes it interesting and enjoyable for you?

JD: Growth and change. Oh Sees in particular are always interested in innovating on our own sound, or trying new stuff, not necessarily genre-flipping or that; moving more where we are uncomfortable or outside of our wheelhouse.

I’ve been watching a lot of tutorials on guitar playing, with all the shit that’s been happening I’ve finally had all the time to do the dumb shit that I’ve always liked to do but never get around too, like watching guitar tutorials on YouTube. One of them was John Abercrombie, a jazz guitarist. He’s really sick, I love his playing. Him and John McLaughlin, are the greats of improve ‘70s era freakout guitar. Jazz guitar is tough for me, I don’t like a lot of it. These two guys were interesting to me. I was watching him and he was a very uncomfortable character and the way that he talked about it, it’s an hour long interview of him talking about improv but really the gist of it is—don’t play anything that you always play. [Laughs] …which I really took to heart!

It’s really interesting to not go to your typical standbys for things that you always do, because with guitar playing in particular that’s really easy to do, to just fall into the same formula, patterns that work for you. I’ve been trying to follow his very basic rule of exploring new territory intentionally. Letting go a little bit too… very fluid and strange so it was very interesting to hear that from him.

What do you value as a creator?

JD: Lately I’ve been doing a lot of improvisational stuff with players that I’ve brought together. It’s nice to be inspired by people, all the time that happens, we wear it on our sleeves pretty hard. For instance, I heard a guy down the street playing drums when I was out for a run two months ago. I’d heard him a couple of times but I stopped to listen and he was this really strange frenetic jazz drummer. I left a note on his car. I’ve never met him, I don’t know him, and I’ve never even seen what he looks like. He hit me back and I had him send me some tracks and brought in all these players one at a time into my studio and just had them do one take with their instrument over this drum track. We started with bass, then I did keyboards, then I did saxophone, and I ended up doing some of my own shit at the end.

It’s really interesting though that right now, I really particularly at this point in my life, appreciate people’s ability to run with an idea without thinking about it too much. I’ve been, and can really dig, surrounding myself with people that can do that and work fast.

I brought in Laena from Fields to play violin on some of my stuff, a record I have coming out soon. She was great! There was also a French guy I brought in to play saxophone. With the two of them we smoked that much weed in the studio that… I mean, I smoke weed pretty much every day, these two smoked so much dope I can’t understand how they were formulating sounds, it was perfect! I really love that right now. I’ve been searching for people that fall into that category, relaxed and quickly inspired and moving forward. There could be so many different answers for your question but that was what was just in my head right now.

Do you smoke weed mostly to relax or is it just for fun or something else? Does it help your creativity?

JD: Right now, it’s to keep from being depressed, honestly. I don’t really consider myself someone who gets depressed, I have pretty primal east coast America emotions [laughs]. Right now it’s a really tough time for the whole world. Regardless of anybody’s bulldog front they put up in this shit, it’s really exhausting and grating, it wears you down right now.

A good approach for a healthy psyche is to stay busy, throwing yourself into work is pretty typical. Music and art – I’ve been painting a lot too – that kind of stuff has its own natural high. When I was a kid, my parents were happy that I was playing guitar and painting, which they thought would keep me out of trouble. I think it kind of did.

Do you ever surprise yourself with the songs you make?

JD: Occasionally. I’m used to myself, I’m bored of myself completely at this point but, every now and then we’ll hit some new stride. With the new Oh Sees record [Protean Threat] it takes a sort of a left turn, I think it’s a bit different to the direction we’ve been heading in, while maintaining some semblance of the same sound. We’ve got some new ground gained this year, this was all done before everything thing went down, so it will be interesting to see how this sits afterwards.

You’ve recently released a new Damaged Bug record Bug On Yonkers which is you covering songs by musician Michael Yonkers. I know that you met him; what was it like?

JD: He’s great, he’s a real cool cat. I met him actually years ago and we stayed in touch but, I’ve only met him three times. I saw him play in Seattle, we played with him. He’s an incredibly positive person, especially with all of the shit that’s gone on in his life, his story is insane. He’s a genuinely nice guy. In my opinion, I hold him in really high regard in terms of his innovation and creativity and his creation out of nothingness, he even makes his own instruments. He was so great the night we saw him play.

Did any of his positivity rub off on you?

JD: Always. When you know someone like that… it’s always great to have people in your life like that. I have incredibly negative friends too, people I love that are just like dark clouds, y’know, that have a very pessimistic view of the world. You have to balance your whole life. I also think it’s ludicrous to be positive all of the time! I have some friends that are so positive that I think there must be something wrong with their brain [laughs]; a dopamine serge or a serotonin overload, that’s not realistic to me. We need a balance. I envy people that can maintain a positive outlook all the time though. I don’t think Yonkers is one of those people that is insanely positive all of the time though, he’s a genuinely nice person, which I can’t really say that for myself. It’s cool to meet someone you look up to and them be fucking cool and not a dirt bag! Although I do like some dirt bags too, it’s a real mixed bag [laughs]. Yonkers is a good guy, there’s a lot of power packed into that strange mind of his.

Is there something you’d really love to make but haven’t yet?

JD: I would love to do animation. I have a lot of ideas for animation, I think it would be within my grasp to do it. It seems very time consuming. I have a thing I wrote which is an episodic feature length animation that’s based on all of the stuff form when I was kid that I’d love to do. We’ll see if it’s in the cards.

Do you feel like you’re doing your best work now?

JD: I’m always doing my best work now, I don’t give a shit about my old records, I don’t care about my old bands… I have very fond memories and I’m glad I did them but… I’ve done Coachwhips reunion trips and stuff and it’s just boring to me at this point. We have fans now that really like that stuff but for me it will always be about the people that were actually standing there in front of it when it was happening. I always want to move forward and I’ve always been looking forward to the next thing.

You’ve been working on painting inspired by sci-fi novel covers you loved when you were a kid for an art show?

JD: Yeah, I’m about two paintings away from being done for the show that I’ve been working on for three years. They’re really big intricate paintings. The problem now is that there probably won’t be anywhere to show them so I’ll just keep painting [laughs]. They’re inspired by sci-fi pulp covers and are very colourful. They’re 6ft by 4ft, about the size of me. I’m very close to being done with the run of specific paintings I wanted to do.

Have you been working on anything else?

JD: I’m tying up a bunch of records I’ve been working on. I have a whole other Damaged Bug record that’s just sitting there waiting to be finished, which I’ve been procrastinating on forever; it’s all my own songs not covers. Then there’s about three records full of improv stuff I’ve done in my studio with all kinds of different players, more jazz, instrumented stuff. I have one I’m working on now with Nick Murray my old drummer, everything is recorded, I’m just editing it, because it’s improv there’s a lot of material to go through. Then there’s the record I finished with that guy that I met down the street, that’s getting mastered next week, I’m putting together the artwork for that.

I’m just trying to stay fit too. I’ve been doing a lot exercising and I’ve been hanging out with my dog and girlfriend. We’ve been growing a lot of marijuana. The guy who grows my favourite weed gave me a bunch of his plants because he’s going to stop growing. I’ve been growing them and cloning them and keeping the strain alive. They’re doing so well because Los Angeles is so fucking sunny! [laughs]. Lots of gardening.

With your Damaged Bug songs I understand that at the end of last year you had about 40 songs but couldn’t finish them?

JD: Yeah, I had a huge pile of songs… that’s why I did a covers album. It was a little break from the actual record. I have 40 songs all on tape, spooled up—I’ll get there! It’ll be done before the end of this year. We still have shows booked in September through December. I refuse to cancel anything early. We’ll see. I’ll just keep chipping away at my projects, there’s no reason to stop. Once a week I’ll take a day off and do absolutely nothing, just sit on my ass and enjoy the day. I try to be in the studio as much as possible though.

Please check out: OH SEES. DAMAGED BUG. CASTLE FACE RECORDS.

French Sci-Fi Psych Rockers SLIFT on New LP Ummon: “It is mainly inspired by Homer’s Odyssey”

Handmade collage by B.

SLIFT’s music takes you on an epic journey to the far reaches of the Universe and back! Their latest slice of heavy sci-fi psych-rock album Ummon is excitingly one part Homer’s Odyssey and one part sci-fi trip. We interviewed guitarist-vocalist, Jean F. to find out more.

SLIFT are from Toulouse, France; what’s it like there? Can you tell us about your neighbourhood?

JEAN: Toulouse is a beautiful city made of red brick, and there are a lot of musicians here. Many very good bands, one of my favorite is Edredon Sensible, they are two percussionist and two saxophonist, They play a groovy and heavy trance, with free jazz elements. I think they will release their first album this year. There’s also BRUIT, evocative post-rock, and Hubris, krautrock warriors. We have a bar (Le Ravelin) where psych and punk bands from all over the world come to play. It’s the last bar in the city to regularly book great bands that play loud and fast. Many venues have closed, the city’s politics sucks and prefers to set up hotels in the centre of town rather than clubs and venues. But I hope things will change in the near future.

What have you been doing today?

JEAN: Today, we are going to pack vinyl to send them as quickly as possible despite the health crisis. Post offices are idling right now and that makes things more difficult. And then, as we are out of town at the moment, we are going to walk in the hills. We play a lot of music as well.

Two of you are brothers (Rémi and Jean), you met Canek in high school; what kind of music and bands were you listening to growing up?

JEAN: When we were kids, our parents listened to the Beatles, and a lot of blues, like John Lee Hooker and BB King. We’ve always loved the blues. Personally, I like the idea that we are still playing the blues with SLIFT. A different blues, but a blues anyway. In high school we listened to a lot of punk stuff, Rancid, Minor Threat, then Fugazi, No Means No and Melvins. In the van on the way to the rehearsal room, Canek’s father introduce us to South American music, psych stuff and jam bands. And of course we are extremely fans of Jimi Hendrix.

When did you first start making music yourself? You played in punk bands?

JEAN: We started playing together in high school. Rémi was still in college, we played punk in Green Day mode at the very beginning. It’s all good memories! We quickly started to add instrumental phases in the compositions. Then we played in different bands before meeting again and forming SLIFT.

Who are your biggest music influences?

JEAN: The Electric Church of Sir Jimi Hendrix.

Photo by RABO.

What made you start SLIFT?

JEAN: We came from punk, and after discovering Hendrix, we started to lengthen our songs, to stretch the structures and especially to jam. It was 4 years ago, we wanted to start a band and play these new songs. We did not know at all the modern psych scene, when we had the chance to attend at the last minute a Moon Duo concert in a museum in Toulouse (we grabbed the last tickets by begging the porter to let us in). This concert was an important event, it was just after leaving the museum that we decided that we were going to record and tour. After that we have of course dug up the modern psych scene, there are so many great bands! People often associate us with this scene, and it’s very cool, but to be honest, today we don’t listen to bands like King Gizzard or Oh Sees anymore. We are more on the groups which, I think, influenced them. Like Amon Dull, Can, Hawkwind, all the 70’s German scene, 70’s Miles Davis, electronic and prog stuff. Among the current groups, we really like the Doom scene, and we particularly love a trio of English bands: Gnod, Hey Colossus and Part Chimp. We listen to a lot of film music. I would love so much that one day we have the opportunity to make one!

What does the band name SLIFT mean?

JEAN: SLIFT is the name of a character from a novel, La Zone du Dehors by Alain Damasio. Read it, you wouldn’t regret it. This author also wrote a masterpiece, La Horde du Contrevent. Probably my best reading experience.

How do you think SLIFT’s sound has changed over time?

JEAN: At first we just wanted to play a lot live, so we recorded quickly, and we composed quickly. Today and for the first time on Ummon, we took our time. The composition method has also changed. On our first two recordings, we all composed together in the rehearsal room. Now I mainly compose on my side, which allows me to go to the end of the ideas and to have a precise vision for the album. Then we test the songs in rehearsal and in concert, we jam the songs, and we talk a lot about where we want to go, what sound, what we are talking about. Personally, it is for me a more accomplished and coherent record, because I have the feeling that we have put a lot of personal and honest things in it, whether in the music or in the concept and the conception of the album. And in terms of sound, we often listen to new things, so it’s always enriching the way we play music I guess. Maybe in two years we will make an album with only percussion (… still with fuzz haha).

You are influenced by cinema and books, especially science fiction stuff; what are some of your favourite books and films?

JEAN: La Nuit des Temps – Barjavel, Rick and Morty, Hyperion cycle – Dan Simmons, Le Dechronologue – Stephane Beauverger, La Horde du Contrevent / La zone du Dehors – Alain Damasio Alien / Prométheus.

Your album Ummon is s real journey for the listener; what inspired the songs themes? It tells a story? It’s a concept album?

JEAN: It is mainly inspired by Homer’s Odyssey and science-fiction trip. The first part tells of the titans’ ascent from the centre to the earth’s surface. The construction of their Citadel on a drifting asteroid, then their departure towards the stars in search of their creators, a journey which will last forever. The second part talks about Hyperion (a Titan born in a Nebula during the endless drift through space) and his exile from the Citadel. After wandering for millions of years, he will return on Earth, alone, then dig the Son Dong’s cave with his bare hand. Hyperion rests at the far end of the cave, and its body will be the breeding ground for life which will soon climb out of the abyss and cover the Earth.

Where does your fascination from space come from?

JEAN: When you are a child, space is synonymous with adventure and wonder. Growing up, what I find cool is that it’s probably endless.

Can you tell us a little bit about recording it? It was recorded at Studio Condorcet by Olivier Cussac, right?

JEAN: You’re right, it was Olivier Cussac who recorded it, and we both mixed and mastered it, we wanted to have as much control as possible over the sound of the record. Olivier is a very talented musician, he play a lot of instruments, and he’s a very good arranger. He mainly composes film music. He has a fascination with vintage stuff, so his studio is a real museum. It is a dream to be in a place like this. He liked the album project a lot, so we took a full month to do it. The atmosphere was super chill, we had the best time!

What is your favourite thing about Ummon?

JEAN:  It is a team effort. We feel fortunate to work with very talented people who passionately love doing what they do. Guthio (who designs the clips and makes the video live), Olivier, Philippe Caza (who designed the artwork), Clémence (who came to sing), the fearless Vicious Circle Records and Stolen Body Records. Hélène, who made so that everything goes well and that ensures that we never sleep on the floor after the shows. And the coolest thing is that these people become a friends.

What do you strive for when playing live?

JEAN: We try to never do the same concert twice. Some pieces are lengthened. We don’t want to recreate the record on stage, its two totally different listening experiences. The record, you can listen to it at home with headphones, it’s an intimate and personal experience. Concerts are an experience of the body, it’s about feeling the volume and the vibrations and seeing humans playing live music.

What do you do outside of music?

JEAN: We do Bonsai!

Please check out: SLIFT. SLIFT on Facebook. Ummon is out on Vicious Circle and Stolen Body 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.

EXEK’s Albert Wolski: “If music can be so powerful, then why not try your hand at creating some. What you create doesn’t have to be everyone’s bag, but some might like it”

Handmade collage by B.

Melbourne’s EXEK create beautiful, atmospheric post-punk-dub-krautrock magic. Their third LP released last year Some Beautiful Species Left (out on Anti Fade Records) takes you on an epic musical journey, from dystopian soundscapes through to poppy hooks. We interviewed EXEK creator Albert Wolski.

Why is music important to you?

ALBERT WOLSKI: It provides content. Filling up the gap between the ears. But it’s crazy how you can feel music too, and not just the low-end rumble in yr guts. But also across your skin. What a wild sensation! The French have a word for that – Frisson.

What inspired you to start making music yourself?

AW: Probably for the reason stated above. If music can be so powerful, then why not try your hand at creating some. What you create doesn’t have to be everyone’s bag, but some might like it.

Your background is in film and sound design; could you please share with us one of your favourite projects you’ve worked on?

AW: Sam Dixon’s short film Dancing Goat was a lot of fun. He had someone else doing the sound and they just played it way too straight for him. Sam realised he needed something a bit more surreal and fantastical. So we did some experimenting, like creating the voices for satanic goats and some other wildlife that lived off-screen. I remember that Selma’s pet Iguana Jub Jub was our inspiration. As a side note, Sam is currently working on our next clip. Since he’s jobless due to Covid-19 the clip will probably be done pretty soon!

How does your film work influence what you create with EXEK? Your songs are incredibly atmospheric.

AW: Thanks! I studied a lot of film scores at uni. I ended up writing my honours thesis on Mica Levi’s Under The Skin and Howard Score’s Videodrome. With both those films, it’s often hard to discern what is the score and what sounds are part of the film. I loved that ambiguity of treading the border of what is classified as ‘music’. I try to apply that concept to EXEK, by using field recordings and odd instruments. But more so, it’s all about depth and creating ambience. Utilising the spacial field, by having some sounds deep in the distance under what’s up close and dominant.

What was the inspiration behind the title of your latest album, Some Beautiful Species Left? It seems to really be in the spirit and themes of the albums tracks.

AW: It’s a lovely sentence isn’t it? The message can be viewed as being pessimistic or optimistic. That was the major draw card. I like to leave it up to the audience. And obviously the title gels well with the concepts discussed in the songs. I suppose it’s kinda a grim record. It’s about not being in control, with elements in your life coming and going. Like waves. Or species. Coming and going. Becoming extinct. And then the fires hit! It felt odd having our album launch in Melbourne, with the album called Some Beautiful Species Left, when there were all these add campaigns everywhere about the massive amount of species that just got annihilated.

You wrote the songs for the record and produced it; what was your initial creative vision for it?

AW: This record began by messing around with a bunch of drum beats whilst making another record. They were initially on the ‘cutting-room’ floor but I liked them so I quickly fleshed out some bass lines, and that’s how the record came about. The record that we were recording is yet to be released. It’s taking a while but I’m happy with the progress.

How did the albums opening track “Hobbyist” develop?

AW: Yeah pretty much just mucking around with a beat. The beat is quite imperfect – as in it folds over and starts again at odd times and doesn’t align with the bass. But it works in an unsettling way. I think it’s my favourite song off the album. It’s got a solid groove that sets the pace for the following tracks. Actually, most of the drums for the record were developed in a similar way. I would beat box the rhythm I had in my head to the drummer, and we’d figure out how to scribe it on a kit.

EXEK – Some Beautiful Species Left.

Why did you go with “How the Curve Helps” for the albums close?

AW: Funny how I mentioned that the album’s title was so strangely relevant during the bushfire catastrophe. And now, the title of this track seems to be so pertinent in regards to the current crisis of Covid-19. Spooky. Anyway. I can’t remember why it’s the closer. There must have been a reason for it. I usually don’t just chuck songs on a record in any old sequence. I find the sequence is very important. An album is like a canvas; all the tracks and instruments need to work together for the common goal. But yeah, can’t remember why, sorry, ha.

Is there a track on the record that was a real challenge to make?

AW: Yeah, “Curve” was a bit of a bitch actually. It took me a while to structure the ending. It needed a bit of a journey. The song’s about how life on earth if affected by what happens out in space, like tidal shifts for example. So it took me a while to shape how the song retreats and slowly eases back in. Several instruments build up and finally develop a bit of a melody. And the piano has a melody that reflects the main synth theme from the first half of the track. And then it ends with the sound of something so innately boring, which is a TNT courier backing up the driveway at my work.

How developed are your ideas before they are committed to a written form?

AW: Half baked. I like to allow things to happen organically. For example, I’d have a part of a track lined up that I know is going to be a guitar line or a synth line. I’d plug everything in and press record without knowing what I’m going play. 90% of the time, it’s the first take that ends up being what you hear on our records. Same goes for when Jai [K Morris Smith] records guitar, or [Andrew] Brocchi does synth. Sometimes they’ve barely heard the track and I’ll get ‘em in, press record, and capture their first impressions. It’s different with lyrics though. I stew on them for years. I can’t fathom how a freestyle rapper’s mind operates. Or hearing how Noel [Gallagher] wrote the last verse for “Shakermaker” in the cab on the way to the studio to record it. Sure, they are garbage lyrics, but suit their music so well.

What sparks your lyrical imagination?

AW: Science. Hard science and the social sciences. There’s a lot of material out there in those fields with interesting words and concepts that haven’t really been rinsed by lyricists yet. So it gives us a point of difference. Ah, this is kinda interesting. So we’re currently working on the next album. I wrote all these lyrics for it ages ago, most of them were written whilst I was on holiday in Europe in 2017. For some reason they’re all about pathogens, and dodgy markets in odd places around the world, and currency fluctuation. I might have to change all that now! I don’t want the next record to appear to be a ‘Covid-19 Sessions’ or some dribble. It’ll have to take a few generations for credible songs about Covid-19 to pop up. No one wants to hear that shit right now. In 50 years’ time it might be interesting, to channel what it was like to live in an era where some guy got sick cos he ate an animal he shouldn’t have eaten, and then the whole world literally got turned upside down.

EXEK – Ahead Of Two Thoughts.

Do you need solitude or have a preferred time of day to write?

AW: I enjoying walking. Doing something whilst writing is great to get the blood flowing, and walking is perfect. The shower is good too, but near impossible to retain ideas.

Does the instrument you use affect the writing of the melody in your songs?

AW: Na, it’s the opposite. The melody affects what instrument will be used. By their very definition, the instruments are the tools. And you need the right tool for the job! ; )

I understand that all of your music gets fed through a Roland Space Echo; how did you first come to using it? What do you love most about it?

AW: Ha, not all of it, but a fair chunk. I don’t run much compression, so the space echo is good to just colour instruments with a bit of tape warmth, even if I’m not using the echo or delay on it. Something like a synth needs to be fed thru some tape. The Space Echo is a great tool at creating atmosphere. Every delay reflection rolls off some higher frequencies and gets duller and duller. Can’t remember my first use. I bought a busted one for real cheap and sent it to Echo Fix on the Central Coast in NSW. They made it fit and working again. Great service, highly recommended.

Do you ever go back and listen to your records?

AW: Nah. But sometimes I enter a shop or something, and I think to myself, “oh this ain’t bad, I know this”, and one more second later I realise its EXEK.

EXEK – A Casual Assmebly.

What do you do to nurture your creativity?

AW: Watch a lot of films, and listening to a wide variety of music. Read too. And podcasts ain’t bad. Primarily it’s finding new music. Been on a heavy funk and soul trip for the past couple of years. Even though I guess we are technically a ‘post-punk’ band, I rarely listen to post-punk.

What are you working on now?

AW: LP4! It’s written, and mostly recorded. Some songs are done! And they sound killer. I hope you like it.

Please check out: EXEK. Some Beautiful Species is out now on Anti Fade Records. EXEK on Facebook. EXEK on Instagram.