Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Philip B Price new Bandcamp Archive Releases

 Finally Winterpills main man, the beloved genius that is Philip B Price has started putting up the lost promised collection of rare album, with more to follow soon. It's all wonderful stuff. The first batch are as follows. (You should note though....whatever is up on the bandcamp now will be replaced with the remixed/remastered versions, but not until a little later this year,but since so many were done on 4-track in the early 90s mastering is a generous term. The ones that are up there are older versions. that page will be changing soon.)

Goodbye, Bambi Manor (1989)

Mr. Price writes: "A burst of melodic anxiety recorded during the break-up of a marriage and the break-up of my first band (Memorial Garage), this collection of 4-track recorded songs became a template for how the next few years would unfold for me creatively: work fast and loose, first takes are best, smash as many instruments onto a track as you can, lo-fi is the real-fi, who cares if the drum machine sounds ridiculous. i think it’s a pretty beautiful mess. it still hurts to listen to. its the first real howl of the loss of innocence. It was self-actualized on cassettes with hand-made & xeroxed inner sleeves.”
Released December 10, 1989

Tender Skelter (1991)

Recorded in 1991 in Gilsum, NH.

Tidbits: I am joined here by Smoki Thoreau (Claudia Friedlander) on vocals and clarinet for a bunch of these songs. Also, Track 3 was a co-write with Jonathan Lethem.

E (1990)

A song cycle mostly conceived in a dream about a Greek statue that rides around a mythical decaying city on a motorcycle, while a dictatorial being known simply as E hovers menacingly in the sky. The narrative is barely suggested, but it's behind it.

Fun fact: track 6 is a Miracle Legion song I heard on a friends mix tape around 1990 and I immediately went home and recorded this cover, not even knowing who the band was, really. Years later, the songs author, Mark Mulcahy, became a friend and Winterpills recorded the exact same song, this time as a full band, for the compilation "Ciao My Shining Star".
released October 10, 1990

Recorded at home in Woodstock, NY, fall 1988, on a Tascam PortaOne, with a borrowed Linn drum machine.
released November 12, 1988

Winterpills Live at Harry's (October 4, 2003)

A room mic recording (by Dan Richardson) of the very first Winterpills live performance on October 4, 2003, at Harry's (previously the Swing Cat, later The Elevens, then the One Bar, now closed) in Northampton, MA. The band at this point consisted only of Philip, Dennis and Dave; Flora did not join until March of the next year. No bass player, either, but that was the norm until 2006.

The band at this point barely knows how to play the songs, is pretty much winging it, and much of the material is drawn from Philip's two solo albums, with the notable exception of the songs Cranky, Letter To A Friend In Jail and A Folded Cloth. All the amateurish moments and mistakes (and there are many) have been left in because time has graced them with a bit of charm (hopefully).

This captures the band at the moment when Philip's solo shows began morphing into something completely different, and also before the band had fully jelled. Dennis tackles much of the harmony work that Flora later takes on as well as his electric guitar parts.

 read my extensive interview with the great man here

Monday, 20 February 2017

Help Curvey get to Britain this summer via

A message from Gregory. "Hi folks! This summer The Luck of Eden Hall has more shows lined up in England, I have a solo performance in London, and I've been asked to play guitar as part of The Cary Grace Band in three different shows in the U.K.. These gigs are offering me small guarantees, but still won't completely cover my airfare and car rental, so I'm running this GoFundMe campaign to try to cover my expenses. In the items posted for sale here, you'll find one-of-a-kind original works used for the fabulous Fruits de Mer record label; copies of long sold out FdM releases; colored and black & white vinyl TLoEH records; Tour t-shirts, CDs, posters and more. I would like to meet my goal of $2000 by no later than May 30th. I sincerely appreciate any support you can give"

some of the rare collectable goodies on offer

FdM Live In London EP & goodies

The Happiness Vending Machine 7" colored vinyl & TLoEH monetary note

FdM Roqueting Through Space (New) blue LP, white 7" vinyl & pullout

FdM Postcards From The Deep box set of 10 flexi-disks & goodies

Pre-order Psychedelic Battles #4 which features our new epic Make Way For The Mighty Machines on one side battling ??? on the other.  LP scheduled for release this September on Vincebus Eruptum Records

FdM Sideshows LP red vinyl & poster

FdM A Phase We're GoingThrough test pressing & poster           

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Mercury Rising. The Butch Young interview

New Jersey native Butch Young’s debut album Mercury Man is an absolute pop treat brimming with great songs beautifully played and wrapped in a gloriously Beatlesque production awash with enough harmonies and hooks that grab you from the first play and never let go. Butch has one of those warm honey drenched voices and a knack for memorable and charming melodies that make this album a winner to be cherished. Time for us to sit down with this abundantly talented fellow and find out about it’s creation and more.

What are your earliest memories of first getting into music?
I have a memory from kindergarten. It was recess and lots of kids were playing on the asphalt playground. The Beatles’ “Can’t Buy Me Love” was blaring (mono) from someone’s transistor radio. I was inexplicably filled with manic energy. I didn’t know how to process the joy it was bringing me. I began briskly walking around in concentric circles -- and continued doing so for the duration of the song -- marveling at its melody and pondering its lyrics. The subject matter of love was already fascinating to me -- and this notion of love being “bought” -- with money and/or in exchange for material goods -- was a wholly new concept to me. The singer was unapologetically acknowledging his lack of wealth or worldly goods, essentially saying: “I have nothing fancy nor expensive to offer you – but that’s not what real love is about, anyway.” As a music-loving boy born of somewhat modest means, the experience inspired me on multiple levels.
I have another vivid memory of hearing 'Tommy James and the Shondells’ “Crimson and Clover” – and getting goose-flesh (horripilation) when he sang the first note of the second verse. What was this otherworldly “eargasm?” Though in this case, I couldn’t make heads or tails of the lyrics, besides a general sense that the singer was wooing some girl. Despite the abstract nature of the words, they seemed to match the music perfectly.
Such was the soundtrack of my first schoolyard crushes.

Which music artists first made you sit up and take notice?
The Beatles, The Monkees, The Rolling Stones, The Turtles, The Zombies. My older sisters had 45s of many great pop songs, which I’d often spin, as well. The Monkees TV show, Beatles cartoons and Partridge Family show were enormously impactful.

When did you start playing an instrument?
I began taking guitar lessons at ten years old. I’d originally asked to play the drums and my dad was eying the Sears catalogue for an affordable set. My mom’s resistance to that level of noise was steadfast, so the guitar became an agreeable-enough compromise. I received lessons from a super-cool dude who lived across the street. He was in a great cover band that played in his basement (with the windows open, thankfully). I have such fond memories of hearing his group rehearse all this great music (including lots of Bread songs + radio hits like “Ride Captain Ride” and “Reflections of my Life”). So there was all this groovy live music filling the immediate neighborhood during the summer – which really inspired me to play myself. I was taught some music theory along with some scales -- playing mostly corny songs through the The Mel Bay method. After a few years of acoustic guitar, my teacher suggested I move on to electric guitar – and so my father (God bless him!) sprang for a Gibson SG and a sweet Fender Twin on my 13th Christmas. We were by no means rich – if even middle class – so I was quite fortunate my dad provided me with a couple of quality guitars, an amp plus lessons between the ages of 10 and 13. I set about learning the guitar solos to such songs as “Shambala” and “Something.”

When did you start writing songs?
At 18 years old. I’d noodled around at songwriting for years before that – but never really finished anything that could structurally be considered a “song.” This is not to say any of them were good songs -- but I was bitten by the songwriting bug and stayed at it.
Were you in any bands?
I was in the 6th grade when I joined my first band, accordingly named “The 6th Sense” with some classmates. I was among the two electric guitar players. We had a drummer but no bass player. We did have a horn section, though – two trumpets and a sax. “Honky Tonk Woman,” “Spinning Wheel” and various Chicago tunes were among the repertoire we played at parties. A great bunch of guys -- and quite capable players for their ages.
I moved out of my house at 19 (for a spell, anyway) to live with a couple of musicians in Lake Hopatcong who were renting some shithole of an apartment. We literally lived on toast for about a month while we wood-shopped some of my tunes along with some of theirs. We wound up bickering over inane things and split up before playing a single show.
Later I formed another band with some local friends in Wayne, NJ. We played some parties.
While in my early-to-mid 20’s my pal Nick Celeste and I formed a Power Pop band called “In Color.” We played some NJ and NY clubs and did some recording.
I’ve been a solo artist since relocating to Los Angeles. Occasionally I enlist some musicians (on an ad hoc basis) such as (primary “Mercury Man” collaborator) Matt Lee and/or Robbie Rist and/or Dramarama’s Mark Englert to accompany me for a local gig or radio show performance. I’ll be doing more of that.

Tell me about some of your previous recording projects.
I’ve always been home-recording my material. I began with some crude multi-tracking by employing a pair of portable tape recorders. Then came the 2-track reel-to-reel, followed by a 4-track machine. Currently I record digitally (on Cubase) in my living room.
When I was 18 or 19, I’d saved some money from my part-time jobs and recorded a few stripped-down (acoustic guitar and voice) demos at a neighborhood recording studio called The Barge. I told my buddy John Easdale about the place and he began making demos there as well. 
While I was a member of “In Color,” we recorded an EP at The Barge and released it on Dramarama’s label, Question Mark Records. Dramarama also recorded an EP at The Barge, along with their first album. Nick Celeste and I contributed backing vocals to their album “Cinema Verite” (on the song “Femme Fatale”).
Soon after, Nick sent some 4 track demos we’d made (of newer songs we’d written) to The Bongos’ Richard Barone. He liked them enough to produce 5 songs for us at yet another local recording studio, Mixolydian. Richard also played and sang on some of those demos.

When Nick grew busier playing with "In Color" producer Richard Barone's solo act, I ventured westward – joining fellow Wayne transplants Dramarama in L.A. I sang some backing vocals on their album “Hi Fi Sci Fi” (joining Dwight Twilley on a song called “Senseless Fun”) – and concurrently recorded my own material with various Dramarama dudes at Hollywood’s Music Box Studios.
Before home-recording the “Mercury Man” album, I’d recorded some of my songs at the home studio of (the late) Rick Rosas (aka: “Rick The Bass Player”). These recordings  were produced by Richard Bosworth (The Knack, Johnny Rivers) and Dramarama’s Chris Carter. Rick played bass with Neil Young and Joe Walsh -- and appeared with Meryl Streep and Rick Springfield in the movie “Ricki and the Flash" in fact, that movie is dedicated to Rick, an uncommonly kind and talented soul. He’s also featured in Jonathan Demme’s Neil Young documentary, “Heart of Gold.” Besides having Rick on bass, I was fortunate to have drummer Phil Jones (Tom Petty), guitarist Berton Averre (The Knack) and backing vocals by Dramarama’s John Easdale and Tom Mullaney along with Edan Everly (Don’s son).
Edan and I co-wrote a few songs and made 4-track demos of them. Around this same time I co-wrote some songs with a mutual friend and music journalist named Ben Fisher -- which were recorded on his ADAT machine in Laurel Canyon.
Subsequently producer/engineer Richard Bosworth and I enlisted Berton Averre again to play on my song, “By Invitation.” I forget which Hollywood studio we used for that.

How did the “Mercury Man” album come together?
I’d been writing and recording digitally (on Cubase) in my living room for quite a while. I had a few dozen songs in various stages of completion. I eventually resolved to fine-tune 10 – 20 of them and release the best of it as an album. I enlisted the help of guitarist/bassist Matt Lee (who played all the electric guitar and two-thirds of the bass lines), bassist/backing vocalist Patric Hayes, drummers Mike Wachs and Daniel Stone -- along with some backing vocal help from Charlene Warren and Kristen Mercado.

How was the recording process?
Recording at home certainly has at least one major upside: No clock ticking, no expense for the actual recording. Though I did modestly compensate some contributors, I certainly benefitted from a lot of friendly good will. Conversely, my very modest and humble array of equipment hardly rivals the home studios belonging to many home recordists I know – let alone a “real” studio. (Though it’s all relative; I imagine some are working with even less than myself in that regard). It would have been wonderful to have had an actual budget with which to apply to a proper recording studio (or even one markedly better than my own), not to mention additional session players and a more proven/capable producer than myself.

How happy are you with the finished album?
Reasonably happy, I suppose. Many compromises were unavoidable -- as my digital recording gear is bare-bones and certainly nothing to write home about (though the few instruments I do own are of good quality). I couldn’t afford to pay as many session players as I’d have liked. The World of Midi allowed for some compromises to be adequately arrived at. There are some instruments I’d have loved to have employed which I don’t happen to own or have free access to. On the other hand, I’ve seen some artists make excellent music on Tascam 4 track machines – so it’s all relative – and I should be careful not make excuses.
I am quite happy with the contributions of the supporting musicians and vocalists who did participate – as well as the mixing and mastering done by Alan Brownstein. I am also pleased with the CD artwork and design assistance I received from (Grammy winner) Rachel Gutek.

Were there songs you didn’t use?
There were many songs (largely fleshed-out recordings) I didn’t use; for a variety of reasons, they didn’t seem to quite fit and/or measure-up. Some may appear on subsequent releases. Some of those demos may be scrapped and begun anew.

What are your favorites on the record?
“Persephone,” “The Fools of May” and “Asteriod.” Though if you ask me again tomorrow, I might cite an entirely different bunch.

How does the song writing process work with you?
Lots of trial and error. Aside from the occasional bursts of inspiration that seem to pretty quickly yield a fully-realized song, much of the time it’s a relentlessly merciless Road To Nowhere: hours spent in vain pursuit of something that never quite comes to satisfying fruition. I expect all writers must accumulate quarries of such detritus in their attempts to sculpt a gem (or anything that glistens) out of all that cold stone.
I typically write the chord progression and melody first -- and subsequently add the lyrics. I’d find it very difficult to do it the other way around – because the melody provides a fixed number of syllables to which the words can be affixed/assigned. The idea of having to make the melody fit an already-fixed number of syllables seems to me a most unwelcome modus operandi.
I’m not usually successful when I sit down with the premeditated intent of writing a song – though there have been some exceptions. It usually happens when I’m abstractly noodling around on guitar or piano with a chord sequence or a riff/figure. Either simultaneously or subsequently, I’ll start singing a snippet of melody (often with nonsensical words that are somehow phonetically suitable). If not actual words, I immediately get a strong sense of what kinds of consonants or vowels seem to fit a given part of the melody. Some songs come pretty quickly, while others require many hours/days/weeks or repetition to find a suitable way of proceeding to the next section of the song.
Once I have a little piece or two that I like (a song-snippet), it becomes very much like completing a puzzle – except the pieces are not visible; they must be intuited using other senses/impulses. I operate with the mindset that (if this song-snippet is any good to begin with) there’s already a way in which this puzzle is supposed to fit together – and it’s my assignment to find it. I guess this sounds a bit pretentious and/or delusional (it’s probably both) but I believe there are at best a very limited number of suitable options (that could result in any song-snippet evolving into a complete song) – and only one option that is the ideal one.
I’ve written 95% of my songs alone -- which would seem the most suitable mode for indulging such notions/delusions. But of course, when co-writing, this mindset must be largely abandoned – because another writer may arrive at an equally (or more) suitable song-section (which manifests how they are convinced the song should best be realized).
The universe -- and music -- are as much governed by order/design (math) as they are by random chaos. A song is (in some ways) a mathematical entity, and (once a Piece-of-the-Whole has been arrived at) it’s the songwriter’s assignment to construct the correct equation. If lyrics (or poems) follow a meter or form (such as a sonnet or haiku) there is a mathematical component present in that aspect of the song, as well.
I tend to see things in mystical terms. Paul McCartney claims he dreamed (at least some of) the melody to “Yesterday.” This sort of anecdote further fuels my perception that the notes (and/or chord progressions) – however simple or complicated – are like low-hanging fruit, somewhere in the ether/subconscious/adjacent-dimension. We’re already (unwittingly) amidst these equations/forms/songs. “There within your reach, if you’re big enough to take it.”
Once I have something approximating a Verse, Chorus, Intro and/or Bridge, I casually/quickly record some scratch tracks of guitar, piano and a very basic drum track. Sometimes I’ll add an additional track of acoustic guitar or piano that demonstrates the melody. Now I can step away from the subjective restraints of proactively performing the song and switch to an objective mode of passive listening. I play it over (and over) again (including while I shower, drive, clean and/or cook), singing along with any phrases that come to mind -- until a light goes off as to what it seems should come next. Even if it’s just a good choice for the first chord of the next section, that can really get the ball rolling.
Once the entire song structure is complete (chord progressions and melodies of the Intro/Verse/Chorus/Bridge) I replay that word-less, bare-bones-demo over-and-over as I endeavor to write the lyrics. Whereas I imagine there only being one ideal way the music meant to go, I sometimes find the lyrics very daunting – because the options seem almost limitless! Nonetheless, the tougher assignment (by a mile) is writing the music. Once I have that, I know I’ll be able to add suitable lyrics -- but good chord progressions and melodies typically prove more elusive.

Are you slow or prolific?
Both. Alternately. I have bursts in which I can write two songs in a day -- and other times when I struggle to write one decent song over two months. I am pretty prolific in terms of stacking up demos of songs (or song-snippets) – and I have more of them than I could ever get around to recording. So even when I’m coping with a bout of writer’s block, I seize the option of further fleshing-out something already written. When I’m stumped in writing the musical aspect, I switch to lyric writing (and vice-versa). Rather than bang my head against the wall for too long on a single song, I find switching around to working on various ones helpful. It’s often extremely challenging to decide which ones are most-worthy of recording. I can be easily swayed by any random opinion(s) -- because I’m constantly second-guessing whether I’ve chosen the best ones to put all that recording work into.

What would you say were your biggest influences?
I guess I should cite the influences that are presumably the most apparent in my sound -- because I love lots of music that doesn’t necessarily manifest itself so obviously in my music. The Beatles, The Monkees, XTC, ELO, Elliott Smith, Tahiti 80, Gilbert O’Sullivan, David Bowie, T. Rex, Beck, The Kinks.

How’s the feedback to the album been so far?
It’s been pretty positive (though not without some fairly warranted critiques of its perceived limitations). I’m grateful to have received a pretty good amount of anecdotal feedback that’s been encouraging. Some reviewers, DJs and other artists I admire seem to like it. I take it all with a big grain of salt, of course. It’s sold more copies than I’d anticipated.

How about you giving us a song-by-song breakdown of all the songs on the album while we are here?
1. Mercury Man:
A vaguely Ziggy Stardust-like story book narrative/faux myth about some kind of messianic super hero; so lonely – and so weary of saving the day.
2. Persephone:
A retelling of the Persephone (Greek) myth. This is one of the relatively rare occasions in which my lyrics “stay on the subject” in a linear way -- as opposed to the usual abstractions I more commonly employ.
3. One Foot In
These lyrics very loosely address tentativeness/indecision/procrastination vis-à-vis mortality and our ultimately inconsequential role in The Big Picture.
4. Dime Store Jesus
When I first arrived at this title, I naively believed no one had ever uttered this bizarre phrase -- whereas it turns out it’s actually “a thing” – like the Dashboard Jesus – which are little religious trinkets/toys. In the context I’d imagined this character, he’s an actual person (probably homeless and/or nuts) who hangs around the discount store, diner and gas station telling people he’s Jesus. He’s harmless enough and naturally in the social orbit of such characters as Sidewalk Caesar (you can easily guess his brand of delusion). On some level I think the Intro/Bridge/Outro section (which is somewhat more serious/pensive in musical and lyrical tone than the other sections of song) is intended to imply: “What if… he really is Jesus…?” That section of the song is meant to stand in contrast to the more flippant/dismissive/humoring tone of the other lyrics and vibe of the song. It’s all very tongue-in cheek (till it’s not).
 5. The Fools of May
I imagined a vaguely Renaissance combo of lute players – a band called “The Fools of May.” They pluck away at wistful songs of unfulfilled love before the main act takes the stage. I may have also had some Tennyson in mind: “In the spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.”
6. Child of Nature
Turbulence at home drives the eponymous kid out of the house – seeking solace and discovery in the woods, the lake and the star-filled sky. It’s extremely nostalgic in tone. It may be my only song without a (proper) chorus. I actually had a melody that went over that slide guitar section (which is essentially the chorus section) but later concluded that the sung melody did more harm than good. That “chorus/intro” section starts-out in a minor mode, a bit darker in tone than the sweeter chords that dominate the ‘A’ section of the verse. This contrast (lyrically and chord-wise) in tone was deliberate.
7. Sunday Driver
Another of the relatively rare cases wherein I stay on the same subject lyrically; nothing abstract about these lyrics. I am fully cognizant of the very high Corn Factor in play here. It’s preposterously quaint and silly subject matter – very hard to sing with a straight face -- yet I concluded this was the just sort of topic the melody and chord progression called for.
8. Mohammed on Top of the Mountain
In this case (the opposite of “Dime Store Jesus”), I thought this phrase was “a thing” – as in: when one is “feeling on top of the world” – the euphoric rush of having arrived at the zenith (physically and/or psychotropically) -- to have pushed past all boundaries and fears. I vaguely thought this phrase was somewhere in the religious text. But it’s not. This is not a phrase that others have commonly (if ever) used in any context -- which did not bode well for my lyrics “connecting” with the listener. So, did I change my lyrics – perhaps to something about “Obama” or “your mama”? Hell, no! I liked the phonetics too much to change them for such pedestrian purposes as making sense! (* Note to Jihadists: please don’t behead me -- because I don’t say anything bad about him; your cooperation is greatly appreciated). In my wacky little ditty, the phrase (very abstractly) references drug euphoria. I had a drug dealer in the Hollywood Hills named Mohammed, which further inspired this wordplay. I’d often get some seriously mind-altering substances together with My Drug Buddy and go out on death-and-sleep-defying benders designed to wreak havoc on the rest of my life. I frequently succeeded!

9. Algernon
This one was vaguely inspired by “Flowers for Algernon”- which was very sad story about a developmentally-challenged man (with the IQ of a small child) who’s exposed to an experimental drug (prefaced by an experiment on a mouse named Algernon) which makes him (like Algernon) supremely brilliant. Algernon is flying through his mazes and this lucky man is now a genius. Better yet, he finds the love he’s felt all along for the beautiful scientist (who’s part of the experiment’s team) finally reciprocated. But after some weeks, the effects of the drug/experiment falter, and he loses his smarts and the girl. Algernon devolves back into just another confused mouse in a maze. The sense of melancholy I felt as a boy when I read the book (and saw the movie starring Cliff Robertson) inspired this one. At one point I rewrote the lyrics so that it would much more closely hew to the (fictitious) story of the book/movie – but The Phonetics got lost. Sure, it made much more sense, but linguistically it lost its mojo. It must sound like I’m singing a love song to a man named “Algernon” – but I’d never wreck my song lyrics out of some silly fear of being mistaken for gay.
10. Asteroid
The idea of a randomly-careening asteroid definitely served as a metaphor. It’s loosely about a hard-partying person who’s always flying high on drugs, without regard for other people or responsibilities. The highs are super-high and fun -- but then coming back to “down to earth” (hangover/shame/regret) is the super-low. (Though asteroids don’t actually come back to earth; mea culpa, Neil deGrasse Tyson). I had a very wild drug-buddy/girlfriend once, with whom I recklessly cavorted. At other times (such as the narrator of this song), I’ve been the sober/responsible one -- while someone close to me is flying off the rails. I suppose in this song I’m alternately addressing (a former version of) myself.
11. Wonderful Life
Just an amalgam of imagery involving the joys of life and love and the inevitability of death – and our characteristic tendency not to meaningfully recognize either.
12. Starlit Lullaby
A bedtime story or lullaby, waxing poetic (as elsewhere on the album) on the wonders of nature. It’s also vaguely about the end of a relationship – or death – it’s “goodnight, lights-out.”

Thanks for that Butch and what are your future plans?
I’m working on a follow-up album (of similarly home-recorded material) and planning more live performances. I’m reaching out to other musicians with whom I can collaborate on both fronts.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Butch Young Mercury Man...beautiful stuff

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Novel and Profane by Wyatt on Bandcamp

Friday, 1 July 2016

Dog Age Swanlake Gate

So there's a new album from Norway's beloved psych pop legends Dog Age called Swanlake Gate out on Voices Of Wonder on both cd and vinyl (with a gatefold sleeve no less). It comes highly recommended and as you would expect it is mighty fine music to be cherished and once more I got to design the front cover. Orginally this was going to be a seven inch single, but that plan was shelved and it became a full album instead. Just below is the unused back cover art for the single.

Here's my old Bucketfull interview with the band from the time of their previous album On The Garish Isles.

For more than two decades now Norway’s own Dog Age have been quietly going about the business of creating wonderful, melodic neo-psychpop with little or no concern with what the rest of the world thinks. Every few years or so they serve up another rich pudding of blissfully winning rainbow dipped songs of beauty and worth, play a few local gigs and sit back, relax and watch the praise come dribbling in. It’s not that they don’t care that their fans number in the low thousands rather than in the millions, its more that they have realised long ago that it is pointless to care too much about the numbers game when caring does nothing to change anything. Instead they put all their care into the creative process and their ambition into creating some of the most ambitious popsike out there. Untouched by the unseemly rat race of being in anyway successful, that has been the musical undoing of many a good band, they have succeeded in creating a body of work that is great today as it was all those years ago when their debut album, Good Day strolled so confidently into the consciousness of true music lovers everywhere. With a new album On The Garish Isles, effortlessly winning the hearts of the few that understand the quiet greatness of this mighty little combo, it seemed time for us to sit down with the honey voiced  singer Jorn Smedslund and find out the laid back secrets of their lack of success.

So how did the band first get together?

Well, I was in a weird little band called (*cough*) Autistiske Barn (Autistic Children), and Jon Anders Strand joined on drums in 1985. Partly because he wanted to play drums and we were the only band around that would let him, and partly because he thought we were hilarious. A couple of years later we started talking about forming another sort of band, a bit like Dog Age, which we were going to call Dog Age. And then Jon played bass in a rather excellent group called Ym-stammen, and we nicked their drummer Christian Refsum and guitar player Harald Beckstrøm. We weren’t thinking any further ahead than just going in a studio and recording some songs. I hadn’t really planned on singing either, but as I wrote most of the songs and was a terrible guitar player, I didn’t really have any choice. Except for not singing, obviously. But that wasn’t an option either. Not really. We didn’t really decide on anything musically at first, but we knew we wanted to avoid being anything like the very dull and self-important country and ”roots” scene that was dominant on Oslo’s musical scene at the time.

Can you tell us about those first couple of albums, how they were recorded and what was the response?

Well, the first one was done in patches, we did the initial five or six songs in a studio in Strømmen, just outside Oslo, that was dead cheap. We did some further work on those recordings, may have just been mixing, at another studio in Oslo. Then the label Voices of Wonder got to hear ’The Sun’, and called me up to let us know they liked us. And then we went to their offices. I remember being mightily impressed that they actually had rented office space, we were used to people working out of their kitchens. They listened to the other stuff we had recorded by then, must have been ’The King of Ing’, ’I Wish I Were Here’, and ’Outside’ at least, probably ’Here Comes the Summer’ as well. Then we were assigned Sister Rain’s Eystein Hopland, who was Voices of Wonder’s go-to guy, as producer. And they packed us into another, rather fancier, studio to finish off the album. We got some good response from that one, but I mostly remember the negative stuff. People were telling us that we should sing in Norwegian, and some found it strange that relatively young men were playing the kind of music we were playing. They wrote us off as a retro type band. But there was some positive response, especially from abroad, but also a very good review in Norway’s biggest newspaper. Didn’t help the record sales a great deal, though. We then recorded a four track EP called ”Outdated Yeah!”, but Voices changed their minds when they heard the songs and wanted to put ’Freda’s Married’ out as a single instead, with ’Violent’ as the b-side. The cover had already been printed, but they used it anyway, which led to some confusion as the lyrics to four songs were printed on the back. The two songs held back for the next album were ’Gathering Round’ and ’Free’.The remainder of that most second of albums, ”Sigh No More”, was recorded with Svein Solberg as producer at his studio. Christian had quit by then, so the new drummer, Geirr Thoresen, played on four or five songs. We got fairly good reviews of this one as well, but it sold even less than the first one, which was a bit disappointing, but not very.

There was a bit of a gap between the second and third album, what happened there?

Well, we took a break for about a year, an extended summer holiday, really, without ever breaking up or anything like that. And then we sort of discussed what we were doing for another year or so and we decided that whatever happened, this band was really about us enjoying ourselves and if it felt more enjoyable to sit down and have a beer rather than rehearsing, we would do that. And we did. But making music we like is also enjoyable, so we did that too, only a bit slower than before. We did do that German EP for the late Norbert Schilling’s Magical Jack label in Germany after he was pointed in our direction by a friend and fan. Also, Harald then  moved to Moss, just south of Oslo, for a few years. So that limited things somewhat as well.

The third album, As It Were, is a bit of a masterwork, lots of songs, huge production, wonderful stuff. The band seemed  on a creative high.

Well, we had time to write songs for it, I guess. And Jon started coming up with more songs for this one. I really like As It Were, it turned out like we planned and then some, and it was a really enjoyable recording process as well. The songs twisted and turned a bit, and there was stuff going on like putting the effect on the bass guitar on ’Alderman Violet’which suddenly transformed the whole feeling of that particular tune. And any record that has ’Cheese and Onions’ and ’Ferry-go-round’on it must be sort of good.

The album after, When the Fish Are Down is a bit of a stop gap though, being made up of outtakes and such. What was the thinking behind it….were you running on empty for a while there?

Well, Jon had to run off to Australia to marry some nurse in the middle of this one, so things got slightly odd. I deliberately held back a couple of songs that I thought might fit better on the next album, which we were already planning. We do five year plans. But there are some people who really like that album, for its eclectic nature or something, I guess. And it does have some really good songs on it, ’Mysterious Horse’, for example. And some of the stuff Harald made was cool.

 You returned with a vengeance with Reefy Seadragon and even got  signed  to Rainbow Quartz and you played IPO in Liverpool.  That must have been quite exciting?

Well, getting that offer from RQ was fun, and IPO was a..., let’s say eventful trip. Good to have played at the almost not fake Cavern. We got some good reviews and hopefully a few different people got to hear our stuff. Rainbow Quartz are a quality label, so many people keep an ear out for what comes out of there.

Let’s talk about the fantastic new album On The Garish Isle out once more on Voices Of Wonder. You’ve had some personnel changes since last time I noticed.

Well, Harald’s brother Lars Fredrik has joined on bass, and he is a very good song writer. Since he’s the New Guy we limited his contribution to three songs. As we say in Norway; ”You can’t come here and come here”, meaning exactly that. But those three songs were so good that we won’t let him do more than two on the next one. There are six of us competing now, so things might get nasty. like Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan. We’re quite pleased with the album, and hope people enjoy it, even though it’s probably not as easily accessible as Reefy in some ways. But that was our pop album. This is the garish country album. I actually thought we might have this one out more than a year ago, so it has been something of a struggle finishing it, but all’s well that seems well!

How much do you still play live and what secret would you put down for the bands longevity and continued creative freshness without ever having to change or compromise your sound.

Well, we play less than we would like to, but there are several reasons for that, not just laziness. Not just. Some of us are rather busy, with other bands, and that four letter word we call work. And high maintenance Wags. We hope we still sound fresh, although some people might argue that freshness never really was our thing even in the beginning, but we just try to enjoy ourselves, really. And it doesn’t hurt to bring in a new band member every ten years or so. Being hugely unsuccessful commercially probably doesn’t hurt either; there’s no pressure or any expectations. But that’s not something we specifically strive for. The main thing is probably that we feel there are songs left to be written, and that it just is a very exciting thing, sitting down with your guitar and not knowing what might be brought into existence only a little while into the future. We’ll never go away!

You’ve done a few TV shows in Norway.

Well, perception is a wonderful thing. We’ve done a couple of television appearances, and they’re both on YouTube now, so it probably seems like we’re on TV all the time, but we’re not, really. Jon is, actually, but not in front of the camera. And Harald was on a Candid Camera program here in Norway a couple of years ago, but that had nothing to do with Dog Age at all.

Looking back what do you feel about what you have achieved creatively so far and looking forward what does the future hold in store for Dog Age?
We’ve written quite a few songs for the next album, and even a little poem, called ’A Dog Poem’ which I will be performing in its entirety. We have already recorded the basic tracks for four or five of the new songs, so there might appear something from the Dogageian corner of the world a bit sooner than one might have expected.  The working title is Like Some Bacon In the Night, so the philosophical and artistic bar has been raised. And glasses have been raised at the bar, philosophically and artistically.

Mick Dillingham.
  you can find my old ptolemaic terrascope articel here