Friday, 31 October 2014

Paraíso Flotante interview with Anna Cuadra and Pedro Fukuda!!

Continuing onwards with my series of Peru-based band interviews, I take a step back of sorts to delve into the minds of two ex-Montibus Communitas (a band whose interview kicked off this series) now performing together in their new group, Paraíso Flotante - a similarly experimental improvisational group. - Interview conducted by Daniel Sharman.

Dan: Where do you guys hail from, and who is in the band?

Anna: Well, for me, this kind of question is long to explain.  my place of birth was in Lima Perú but grew my whole life in Bogota Colombia. It’s was basically  me and Pedro, though before Pedro had been playing with other musicians under the same name. After a while it was hard to get everyone together so it established more between the two of us.

Dan: What were you doing previous to this band, and what inspired you to form Paraíso Flotante?

Anna: I had just arrived from Argentina a while ago and was recording my songs and playing with some local bands. Practically Pedro invited me to play in an acoustic & live environment, the day we had met in Brayan's place for the first jam, we had a real connection in our improvisation that day and we wanted to keep the same rhythm but exploring other “air” spaces.

Dan: Being an improvisational group, how do you go about writing? I mean to say, what inspires you and gives birth to the music you produce?

Anna: For me, is the need to play, then later we manage to remember and write in a creative unstructured way the things we want to rescue from our jams. Though, unfortunately we never recorded any of our jams together with Pedro.

Dan: What sort of bands, and records influence you? I think I heard some Gong-esque chants in gan/río prohibido.

Anna: Normally I listened to Soft Machine, Fleetwood mac, Gong, and King Crimson, whilst going to school,  but also, Herbie Hancock, Jaco Pastorius, Laurie Anderson, John Zorn, Mike Patton etc. and composers like Steve Reich, Arthur Russell, Arto Lindsay, Jun Miyake, Eyvind Kang, Raul Zarate, Brian Eno and the list goes on & on. I listen to albums like “Dark side of the Moon” by Pink Floyd; “The Youngs” by The Youngs; “Tierra” by Julieta Rimoldi; and “Parallelograms” by Linda Perhacs.

Pedro: I like Gong, but I don't really know their music that well. We all have different music that we like in this band. I like the art ensemble of Chicago, they have an influence on me. Secret Chiefs 3, Masada, Hamid Drake is one of my favourite drummers. I'm also into Baba Sissoko, Konono (the mbira band) and Oumou Sangare. Lately, I mostly listen to podcasts and audiobooks like the Church of What's Happening Now and the Illuminatus Trilogy audiobook on YouTube, which is brilliantly performed.

Dan: How/where were the albums recorded?

Pedro: So 'Gan Rio Prohibido' was recorded in my apartment by a friend's (the Singer) laptop . I don't have any kind of studio set up here it's just a rehearsal space, so the sound is not the best. I think you can hear the same dog  barking through the whole session which I kind of like. This particular session features my long time friend's Tete Leguia who is a brilliant bassist, and composer as well, who plays in many bands, and Carlos French who is a singer that also plays a lot electronic keyboards like Moogs and such.

Dan: What were some of the instruments used on the recordings? E.g: percussion, strings, ect.

Pedro: The instruments on that song I don't remember that well, but there's an acoustic nylon guitar  played with drumsticks (like Cairo Heroin-infused Street musician style); Tete on bass, there's an irish flute, a quena, drums, and we all sing.

Dan: What is next for Paraíso Flotante?

Anna: We have plans of recording virtually, but most important now is playing on live. Meanwhile, I guess Pedro will continue in Perú and me here in Argentina.

Pedro: I don't know. We´re not active now, although Nik Rayne [of Sky Lantern Records) is releasing a tape of our's. But, everyone from the band is playing, doing their own thing. I play in a crazy jazz trio with the bass player and Marco Mazzini - an amazing clarinet player from here. Carlos has his doom band. El Jefazo and I still play with Chicho who was a mayor presence in Montibus Communitas too.

Dan: Right, so you are an ex-montibus communitas member, can you tell me about that time?

Pedro: I met Brayan, who at that time called himself Brayan Buckt (his real name is Brayan Tipa), at this concert in Lima and I asked him to play, we jammed at his place and the second time I went there I met Anna and Sergio and that's when we recorded the material on the first LP. I started playing a lot with Anna and Chicho after that around that time Montibus had its first gig in Koca Kinto, which in my opinion is the only really good gig we ever played. After that people got excited and we wanted to rehearse and share ideas but Brayan said ''NO''! He said that the band was free-wheeling, that there would be no rehearsals... So we  kind of went fuck that and did our own thing.

Dan: We reviewed Pilgrim to the absolute recently, what do you think of that record?

Pedro: Well, now we're not in the Stone age there is Google. You know one time I went in there and put Montibus Communitas into search and there was all these interviews saying anybody could be in that and that we are mystics living at the edge of a river and that's when I got upset. No one ever asked if we liked that name Montibus Communitas. And it was a band with fixed members since Chicho played with us, Brayan brought in another bassist who didn't really click with us. 

Also most of the parts I played are credited under Brayan's name. After that we all left and we don't know anything about the band and we don't receive anything for any releases.

Dan: Lastly, is there anything else you would like to say?

Anna: Let there be more musicians able to risk their oneself to become one with music. Fashion and fame are good and motivating, but it comes and goes as fast as the wind. Kill your own idols & maintain yourself to be true to your real own essence.

Do You Even Psychedelic? would like to thank Anna and Pedro for taking the time to complete this interview. 

Make sure to like the band's facebook page here.

You can hear the band's music on their Soundcloud, here.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Happy Trails: John Cipollina's Guitar Rig + Technique Analysis - Chapter 2: Amps and Effects (Editorial)

Rig Rundown - Guitars - (see introduction here)

Several months ago I started a series on the guitar rig and playing techniques of the late, fantastic John Cipollina. This instalment will touch on Cipollina's amps and effects, you can read the first chapter, which focuses on his choice of guitars, here.

Amps: The amp set up Cipollina implemented was an integral part of his signature sound, and can be seen as driving force in solidifying the psychedelic sound of the San Francisco music scene of the 1960's. 

Cipollina's unusual selection and combination of amps resulted in an entirely unique amp stack. On the bottom of the stack sat two solid-state Standel bass amps, each of which were equipped with two 15 inch speakers. In contrast, on the top of the stack sat two Fender tube amps: a Twin Reverb sporting two 12-inch speakers, and a Dual Showman which had been modified to drive six Wurlitzer horns. 

As previously mentioned in chapter one, this set up was deliberately designed so as to form a symbiotic relationship with the guitar. Cipollina's SGs were wired to have one pickup going purely to the Standel bass amps, and have the other pickup going purely to the Fender guitar amps. This meant Cipollina could play with the low crunch of the Standel amps and the classic spiky cleans of the Fenders simultaneously. 

"I like the rapid punch of solid-state for the bottom, and the rodent-gnawing distortion of the tubes on top" - John Cipollina

Lastly, Cipollina also used the driven Wurlitzer horns to good effect, using a foot-switch to turn them on and off. When pushed by the Dual Showman, they provided a familiar rounded tone with overtones of distorted tube breakup (An example of the horn tone can be heard in Quicksilver Messenger Service's 'How You Love').

Effects: Moving onto the last element of Cipollina's famously extraordinary rig, we come to his effects. Although much of Cipollina's sound was provided courtesy of his eclectic amp selection, some of his tone was derived from effects pedals and units.

Most notably, Cipollina's Twin Reverb sported two tape echo machines, one fixed to either side. On the left clung a Standel Modulux, and in similar fashion, so did a Astro Echoplex on the right (scroll down to bottom for image of stack). Like the horns, operation of these was controlled by foot-switch. Quicksilver Messenger Service's 'Mona' provides a perfect example of these echo machines in use. 

Alongside these units, Cipollina also used several Vox wah pedals, which he often used to modulate his guitar signal when using his tape-echo's (once again, hear 'Mona'). For a fuzz, a Gibson Maestro was used (the same pedal used by The Rolling Stones on 'Satisfaction' and by The Doors on 'Hello, I Love You'). Volume pedals were also used when a song called for less distortion for example. 

Saturday, 25 October 2014

The Social End Products Interview with Sta Stea!

Tired of sampling your rock and roll only from the American school of musical psychedelia? Well, threat no more as we take a journey into the mind of Athens-based  quintet, The Social End Products. Drawing from the golden era of European psychedelia, the group captures all the pop rock spook-psych charm of the generation, but modernises it into a fresh, Greek package. - Interview conducted by Daniel Sharman.

Dan: Hi Sta, would you like to introduce yourself?

Sta: I'm the drummer and lead vocalist of the band. I also write the lyrics and some of the music.

Dan: Who else is in the band, and where is the band situated?

Sta: Manos plays guitar and performs vocals, Sara performs guitar/organ/vocals, Themos performs bass/vocals, and Myrto plays flute.

Dan: The band name 'Social End Products' is a very poignant name, where does it originate from?

Sta: We took our name from the title of the song of the same name by New Zealand's THE BLUESTARS. It represents us!

Dan: You guys have a sound reminiscent of the old, European psych groups of the sixties. What are some of your influences?

Sta: I would say we are more influenced from the American bands of the 60s and even more from the South American ones like Aguaturbia, Laghonia, etc. and also very much from sixties Greek bands like Peloma Bokiou, Nostradamos, etc. I feel those influences are more obvious to our new recordings.

Dan: On the band's facebook page, many interesting pieces of vintage gear can be seen. What guitars where you using on your latest sonic outing, Nutre Tu Cabeza?

Sta: Yes we love vintage instruments and when we find something interesting (and cheap) we buy it! Unfortunately, when we were recording our LP didn't have all that so we used a Fender Jaguar and a Fender Jazzmaster. But, on our new recordings we used our EKO guitar collection! 12-string Cobra, Auriga and Melody.

Dan: And how about amps, and effects?

Sta: We have a Fender Twin Reverb and an EKO Herald IV. We use a lot of effects, but think the most interesting is our sixties EKO Multitone.

From left to right: (top) Twin Reverb, EKO Cobra,
Fender Jaguar. (bottom) EKO Auriga. 

Dan: What about any other instruments, such as keyboards, drums, ect.?

Sta: We also use a 70s EKO Tiger Junior Organ.

Dan: Where did you record the latest album?

Sta: We do all our recording's at FEEDBACK SOUND STUDIO in Athens. It is the best for a vintage sound and our producer Harris Zourelidis is a true master of sound!!!

Dan: What have you learnt from Nutre Tu Cabeza's completion?

Sta: It's been very nice in the studio and tripping in the world of sound. Especially when you want to reproduce a sound of the past, you get to have a journey through time.

Dan: What's next for the Social end products?

Sta: We are recording new songs now. Two of them 'FEELS MUCH BETTER ON THE OTHER SIDE' and 'UTOPIA' will be on a 7". That will be out next month on Garden Of Dreams Records, the coolest label in Greece right now. The rest will be in a full LP, which is coming some time in spring. We also have some gigs this month with TOMORROWS TULIPS in Athens and with ALLAH-LAS in Thessaloniki.

Dan: Lastly, are there any shout-outs you would like to make?

Sta: We would like to thank everyone supporting us worldwide. 

Do You Even Psychedelic? would like to thank the band for taking the time to complete this interview.

Find the band's latest LP, and their past 7", here.

You can hear the single from the band's upcoming 7", Utopia, here.

Make sure to keep up to date with their Facebook page here.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

The Cosmic Dead: The Cosmic Dead Début Review

Nik Turner might be touring with legendary space rock heavy-weights Hawkwind once again, but The Cosmic Dead are here to show that 
[inter-]stellar music might be closer to this point in time than you might of first thought. - Review by Daniel Sharman.

Released in: 9th May 2011
Genre: New Age Death Psychedelia
Record Label: Cardinal Fuzz, Paradigms Recordings 
Medium: Double Vinyl, CD, Digital Download
Recorded at: The Moonshaker

From the outset, this début captures all of the wild, visceral impact of a wilderness psychedelia record, but repackages it in a brand-new, space rock-drenched form. The album features a number of musicians, but all of the vocal and guitar work is delivered by cosmic mainstay, James T McKay, whom, much like the rest of the album's musicians, understands the importance of playing just what the jam calls for - gentle and nuanced at times, forward and blatant at others. Drawing heavily from space rock icons of yesteryear such as Hawkwind and Gong, whilst simultaneously remaining fresh and unique in light of its contemporaries (e.g: Electric Moon, Mugstar, Carlton Melton, etc.), The Cosmic Dead's début LP brings a whole new brand of moribund excitement to the psychedelic rock stage.

The album kicks off with 18 minute opener, The Black Rabbit (a possible Jefferson Airplane reference?), which starts off with a synthesiser raga of sorts (once again reminiscent of Carlton Melton), one which provides a gentle start to the album whilst also giving it a feeling of levitation. After this three minute introduction drums, bass, and guitar explode into the mix, now accompanying the floating synthesiser work. The guitar playing is wild and unruly, throwing distorted licks up from the grounded arena of the bass and drums into the air so they may sit next to the work of the keys. Additionally, the guitar work on 'Black Rabbit' is somewhat more planned than on the other tracks, all the playing being performed around a central melodic theme. Near the end of the track, bass and drums are also allowed time for experimentation along with guitar and synth. 

Moving onwards, the album's second track, Spice Melange Spectrum, seems to adopt a more conventional length when compared to the débuts other track's. Moreover, 'Spice Melange Spectrum' is perhaps the most intriguingly titled track of the album, receiving kudos from for its implementation of obscure, French vocabulary. McKay's use of Wah on this track is used fruitfully to create whirling sonic landscapes, once again driving home the feelings of levity and etherealness. This guttural guitar work should have immediate appeal to fans of Ripley Johnson's playing on the early Wooden Shjips records, and also Nik Rayne's playing on the latest Myrrors release, Solar Collector (review here). 

The track's third album, Infinite Death of The Godhead (another intriguingly titled track), returns to a more familiar duration (13:44 minutes). This track is more focused on the power of the bass and drums, especially in combination, and appears to be almost minimalist in their repetitive, droning attack. Furthermore, vocal drones are provided by McKay himself, giving validity to the previously made Gong comparisons. Also, thanks to the continuing onslaught of the bass and drums, McKay's guitar playing is given the chance to take on a slightly more spaghetti western edge with waving, sinuous chords working their way in and out throughout the song, aided by classic surf lines of sharp, short bursts of twangy, reverberated action.   

Lastly, clocking in at 40 minutes, 'Father Sky, Mother Earth' (the title 'Mother Earth' further evoking notions of the aforementioned wilderness rock connotation) constitutes half of the 80 minute runtime of the album, and so demands an analysis on the merit of its duration alone. The track is a delicately jammed out closer, utilising a great, panning synthesiser sound throughout to give the track a true feeling of levitation. The track also relies greatly on the inventive work of bassist, Omar Aborida, to give structure and tonal nuance to the lengthy instrumental, the bassline ranging from a repetitive, driving sonic-propellant, to a droning, fuzzy backdrop. The drumming on the track is of a similar nature to that of the bass, providing a range of percussive voices, whilst still perpetuating a composed, unintruded atmosphere. This instrumentation creates an ideal stage for the once again, classically psychedelic guitar work and vocals of McKay, which makes use of a full range of effects, giving the album's ending a familiarly rock and roll feel. 

Critic's Comment: This may be a dense, lengthy review of a lengthy album, but don't believe for one minute that this début's content is anything but light and ethereal. This album is a perfect example of how focusing on producing the music that you want to create, with no concerned thoughts for conventional standards such as condensed duration, is perhaps the best way to produce quality music that will remain timeless and enjoyable no matter how many times it is played. Do yourself a favour this Saturday and sit back, eat a banana, and enjoy this one hell of a record.

Friday, 17 October 2014

The Dead-End Alley Band Interview with Sebastian Sanchez-Botta and Javier Kou!

43 years ago listeners from across the globe took the needle off of their copies of L.A Woman, left with nothing but the harrowing vocal refrain of Jim Morrison singing 'Riders on the Storm'. Over four decades later, Peru-based psychedelists, The Dead-End Alley Band, are bringing it all back. Taking inspiration from the past, this group are creating some of the most authentic-sounding blues-based, stoner rock to come out of the South American continent in recent times. Enjoy the latest instalment in our continuing series of interviews out of Lima, Peru. (read instalments one + two). - Interview conducted by Daniel Sharman. 

Dan: Who is in the band, and who plays what?

Sebastian: Hi, Daniel. Well, this psychedelic adventure started with Javier Kou, playing guitars, bass and some vocal, and me, Sebastian Sanchez-Botta, playing vocals, organs, piano and some drums. Then, on the road, we added a couple of friends to perform live. They are Leonardo Alva on lead guitars, and Jaime Diaz on drums, so, the final line up is: Me on vocals and organs, Javier on vocals and bass, Leonardo on guitars, and Jaime on drums.

Dan: Where does the name The Dead-End Alley Band originate from?

Javier: Besides psychedelic music, I like some other genres and bands, so the name came up a long time ago between 2006 and 2007 when I was listening to Enrique Bunbury’s new album (in that time) in collaboration with another Spanish singer named Nacho Vegas. One of the songs of the album was ‘Welcome to El Callejón sin Salida’ and I liked the part of ‘Callejón sin Salida’ that in English is ‘Dead-End Alley’, so I just put the ‘The’ at the beginning and the ‘Band’ at the end and that was it: The Dead-End Alley Band. I saved that name for some years till I told Sebastian to start this project.

Dan: Some of the Dead-End Alley Band's songs are very organ-focused, not all too common in the often guitar-dominated world of neo psychedelia. What caused you to bring organ into the mix?

Sebastian: It’s because, our first influence to start making psychedelia were ‘The Doors’. Their music had a lot of Ray Manzarek’s organs presence, so we started loving that kind of mix between laced-cheesy-obscured organs with some delayed and fuzzy blues guitars.

Javier: Yeah, and also, in my opinion, the organ plays such a big role in the music we create, is like the nexus between the real world and the trip we offer.

Dan: Your sound contains a wide variety of band's, such as The Doors, The Deltones, Country Joe and The Fish, etc. What are some of your influences, and current favourite bands?

Javier: For the band, some other influences besides the ones you already mentioned are ‘Iron Butterfly’, ‘Phantom’s Divine Comedy’ and maybe some of ‘Vanilla Fudge’. Also when I have to create bass lines some of the influences are from Deep Purple’s Roger Glover and Black Sabbath’s Geezer Buttler. And talking about favourite bands, if I have to name 5 I would say: ‘The Doors’, ‘Alice in Chains’ (the old one without the new vocalist), ‘Alice Cooper’, ‘Héroes del Silencio’, and ‘Judas Priest’.

Sebastian: And for me, my personal influences in organs comes, besides Ray Manzarek, from classical music, some goth organs from Tim Burton’s movies, for example, or some sixties horror b-movies.

Dan: I notice that Javier Kou plays both guitar and bass on the records, how does this work in a live context?

Javier: Like Sebastian said, we had to add some people to play live, so, I play bass at the concerts, because Leonardo is so much better guitarist that I am.

Dan: Why was Leonardo Alva brought into play lead on the track 'The Cosmic Cry Out'?

Sebastian: When we included Leo in the band, we found that he is a blues man. He had a very sweet and sexy “hendrixian” way to seduce with his guitar. ‘The Cosmic Cry Out’ it supposed to be a very sensual track, so… the man with sensual bluesy solos must be there.

Dan: I feel like I'm interviewing a tonne of bands from Lima recently! First Montibus Communitas, then Spatial Moods, and now you guys! How do you feel about the Lima musical scene?

Sebastian: I have a personal feeling about Peruvian’s rock and music as well. I think that the most representative sound of Peruvian rock is the psychedelia from Traffic Sound, Laghonia, Los York’s, etc. Then, combined with the popular ‘chicha’ (psychedelic cumbia), it seems to be that psychedelic sounds are representative from this country. Is not weird, at the end of the day, to find out that we are living in a psych rock camp. A lot of bands here love having a psych sound in their style, and finally you realize that psychedelia is good looking outside, but in Lima, it lives in a very underground world.

Dan: What guitars were used on the Odd Stories recording sessions?

Javier: I like the question, man! Hahaha, Ok!, we used 3 different guitars, a Thomas guitar (A vintage Japanese copy of a Mosrite guitar), an Ephiphone Hollow Casino and 1968 Univox, provided by our friend, brother and co-producer, Chino Burga (from La Ira de Dios).

Dan: Also, what organs/keyboards were used on the album?

Sebastian: Since we started playing and recording, I play with a Farfisa Fast 5 organ, from 1969.

Dan: How about amps and effects (for both organ and guitars)?

Javier: Vox pathfinder and Marshall.

Dan: In a more general sense, what were the Odd Stories recording sessions like? Why did you decide to overdub the sound of rain onto tracks like 'Blue at a distance'?

Sebastian: We used to record in our home studio. Also, we record some tracks in some friend’s houses or studios. For example, drums were edited and mixed at Jaime Diaz studio. ‘Blue At Distance’ is a track with some feelings of loneliness. The story of a lonely guy walking through the streets at night, under the rain. We thought the sound of rain could increase that feeling of loneliness we wanted.

Dan: Who created the artwork of Odd Stories? And what does it depict?

Javier: Sebastian came with the whole illustration, and I made the work in photoshop.

Sebastian: It's an "odd story" too, hehe. The first song we composed for this album was Devil's Mask. It was my favorite song, and also, I told Javier to have that song as a single for the album. I thought the album will be called 'Devil's Mask', so I draw this weird guy with a 'diablada' mask, representative from the southern highlands here. When I wrote the lyrics and thought the story of the song, I decided to use that mask, because it's very crazy. It looks very mad and psych, too.

Dan: What's next for The Dead-End Alley Band?

Javier: Actually we are working in some demo's for the 3rd album, I guess we have the songs we want to record in a close future, but I would like to have more songs so we can choose some of them and save the others for b-sides or compilations with other bands. That’s all I can say about.

Dan: Is their anything else you would like to say or any shout-outs you would like to make?

Javier: Hmm, not really, we are preparing the official release of the LP here in Lima, also some labels here are working now on the CD and Tape editions of the ‘Odd Stories’ so it will be a complete album release, a big party (or slaughter… hehehe)! Also we would like to thank to all the people who have been supporting us since the beginning, I won’t say names ‘cuz it may take too long, and thank you for the interview and the time.

Sebastian: Just hit “play” and let yourself get carried away by a night of pure madness!!

Check out the fantastic new Dead-End Alley Band record, Odd Stories, here

Also, make sure to like the band's Facebook page to keep up to date, here

Friday, 10 October 2014

Cloud Shepherd Interview with Andrew, Brian, Mark, and Joe! (Full Band Interview)

Living in the 21st century, the connection between man and sound can often be seen to of been forgotten, or at least misremembered. Ancient lore is often steeped in mystique regarding the power of vibrations, and it is not hard to imagine prehistoric man crouched in a dark cave with nothing but a drum to acquaint him with the sonic abyss. Fast-forward to present day and susurrus folk/wilderness jazz outfit, Cloud Shepherd, are attempting to turn your office desk into that dank cave once again...

Dan: Who is in the band, and who plays what?

Mark: Cloud Shepherd is Joseph Noble on woodwinds and percussion, Andrew Joron on theremin, Brian Lucas on bass guitar, tapes, and percussion, and Mark Pino on Cloud Kit percussion.

Joe: Andrew Joron is on Theremin (waterphone too in earlier recordings). Brian Lucas is on bass, electronics, tape samples, waterphone. Mark Pino is on Cloud kit percussion, which consists of a wide variety of percussion instruments rather than a trap set. Also, waterphone, mbira/kalimba, an electronic device I don’t know the name of, and bamboo flute at times. Myself, Joseph Noble am on C-­‐flute, alto flute, bass flute, soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, Balanese suling bamboo flute, Thai bamboo flute, various other flutes, bass clarinet, percussion (Chinese cymbal, bowls, etc.), waterphone.  

Brian: I play electric bass (6 string Danelectro), electronics, and tapes.

Dan: Where are you guys located?

Joe: We play and record in my place which is currently in Berkeley (previously in Oakland). Andrew lives in El Cerrito; Brian lives in Oakland; Mark lives in El Cerrito.

From Cloud Shepherd's latest live album (artwork: Joseph Noble)

Dan: How did the band start playing together?

Brian: Andrew and I (Brian) were playing very informally as a duo in our respective living rooms. This was in late 2009, I think. Around this time I met Joe at a friend’s party (Andrew already knew Joe from the Bay Area poetry scene—there are poets in this band!) where he played sax. Said friend encouraged the three of us to jam together, so we did. We were a trio called Free Rein for a couple years, playing mostly quiet, tonal, drone-based music. We played live with Voice of Eye once, did a little poetry/music tour in Colorado, and self-released a couple CDrs. We changed our name to Cloud Shepherd in 2010 (I think), a year before Mark was in the group. Not long before Free Rein started, Mark and I jammed with a guitarist a couple times until that dried up. In 2011 I asked Mark if he wanted to come jam with us. It’s worked out very well. 

Joe: Cloud  Shepherd started as a trio called Free Rein. The poet, Brian Strang, used to hold a salon called Second Mynd at his house in Oakland. Folks would come and read poetry, play music, show artwork, screen films. Andrew, Brian, and I all went to this salon. One time, I brought my alto saxophone and played an unaccompanied version of Lonnie’s Lament by John Coltrane. Brian came up to me afterwards and said that he and Andrew would get together sometimes and play music and asked if I would like to join them. So we began getting together at my place in Oakland. That was towards the end of 2008. Our sound was more droney and quiet at that point. Besides flutes and saxes, I also played more percussion then, as well as waterphone (which all three of us played then); Mark wasn't with us at that time.

Is the band's dress-code indicative of their sound? You decide.

Dan: When, and why, did Mark join the band? He isn't credited as playing on the first album, but I noticed he took the photo used for that album cover, also I see he is on some albums and not on others. How does he interact with the band?

Mark: I joined Cloud Shepherd in 2011. The photo that you are referring to was taken by me while listening to Cloud Shepherd during a break at work in 2011. I absolutely loved the sound of the band, and really, really wanted to participate. Thankfully, Cloud Shepherd took me on, and I am a full time member. 

Brian: He joined us quite some time after we started. Early summer, 2011. Mark didn’t play on the first physical album, Helioscript and a few digital albums only because he wasn’t in the group. As I mentioned I knew Mark for a couple years before he joined in. I think he sent the futureNOW photo to me. I don’t recall. Often Joe or I would play percussion in Free Rein and early Cloud Shepherd. I wondered what it would be like to have a full-time percussionist ala Jamie Muir: flexible, a sensitive listener, inside/”out” player, and a maniac; someone who could adapt to what Cloud Shepherd was already doing, create new dynamics, and open unseen/unheard sonic pathways that may not have been found otherwise.

Joe: Mark joined the band in 2011, after we changed the name from Free Rein (from the title of a book by André Breton) to Cloud Shepherd (named after a poem and sculpture by Hans/Jean Arp). So he’s not on Helioscript and the early albums on our BandCamp site: Cloud Shepherd is a group improvisation band, so Mark interacts as an equal voice with Andrew, Brian, and myself. We all listen to each other and what’s going on collectively and proceed from there.

The Maniac, Mark Pino, showing us that facial hair is always more rock and roll.

Dan: How do you go about writing? Is it purely instrumental, or do you come up with themes and motifs and then work off of them to jam out a complete piece of music?

Mark: Cloud Shepherd’s music is improvised. Sometimes we may use an agreed upon “theme” with which to map our pieces (there is one on Xenoglossia), but for the most part they occur spontaneously.

Brian: We write poetry, we don’t write music. What you hear on the recordings is what we created at that very moment. Sometimes we are distracted and the sounds don’t cohere, but more often than not we get into The Zone and it all flows. Listening is key. Allowing oneself to travel outside the comfort zone, giving room/laying back in order for others to ascend and descend as they experience what is happening, actively exploring the inside of what is organically streaming from us individually and how that sound is transformed by the collective. We are sometimes amazed at what we come up with, it’s as though a fifth member is there as a conduit for our (supposedly) separate selves. We are at once intimately connected to what we’re playing, but sometimes we are outside the sound looking into it as an entity that is apart, outside, The Other. Sometimes we just laugh after playing…it’s the only possible reaction.

Joe: Our music is generally instrumental, though some of us have been known to vocalize at times. We don’t write compositions. Cloud Shepherd is a free improvisation quartet. We generate each piece new at each session. We do sometimes set a certain framework. For instance, on Xenoglossia, we have a few pieces in which we decided beforehand who plays when, e.g., two band members would start playing, then stop, and then the other two members would begin, or we did a round robin thing. But most of the time we don’t do that. Most of the time it’s free improv with a lot of listening to each other.

The aforementioned 'Helioscript'

Dan: Also for writing, how do you name your songs? Something that has also interested me with instrumental music.

Mark: The songs are most often named by Joe, as are the titles. He does a TON of work in the background, sort of post-production stuff, once we’ve recorded songs and agree upon their being released in whichever format.

Brian: Joe often names the songs. Often we’ll each title a song. Xenoglossia’s song titles are from Finnegan Wake. Titles are based on whatever imagery the song induces in my mind that I then translate into words.

Joe: Sometimes we each name individual tracks, sometimes we collaborate on names, sometimes I come up with names and ask the other guys if they’re ok with them. I’m the one who records our sessions and now generally masters/edits them, so it’s sometimes easier if I come up with name suggestions. Brian mastered/edited and posted the earlier albums and also named many of the tracks on those albums.

Cloud Shepherd's latest release, out on Sky Lantern Records.

Dan: How would you define the music you create? It's obviously drone-based, but I have a hard time putting a finger exactly on it. It has an environmental quality that makes me think wilderness jazz/folk, but I wonder how you view it yourselves. 

Mark: I define Cloud Shepherd music as Improvised Chamber Jazz. We just try to listen to each other and create solidly formed examples of such. 

Brian: There’s a drone, or pulse at times, but it isn't constant and is always prone to disruption. Our music is more episodic than confined to a drone, which is, as I understand it, one long extended note. We don’t do that. There may be a drone that gets things started, but it gets corrupted at some point. We have, in a way, created a singular world of sound. 

Joe: I like that description: “wilderness jazz/folk”! Wow, that’s good! Very applicable to what we do. How to describe our music? Besides wilderness jazz/folk, I’d say: free, collective improvisation; tribal; drone; avant garde; experimental. The four of us have very different backgrounds musically, so we bring very different interests, influences, and traditions to our collective improvisations. I think we do create “environments,” as you put it. What we do has a certain motion and directionality, a life of its own born of the moment. There’s a kind of sculptural, dance quality to each improvisation. The listening we do to each other is really important and one of the joys of playing in the band: hearing where things are going, moving in that direction, following someone’s lead, taking the lead, leading with the others simultaneously.

Transonal Topographies LP (Artwork: Brian Lucas)

Dan: Your Bandcamp cites you are influenced by Classical and jazz music. I certainly here both in your sound, and it is certainly unusual to hear a band I'm interviewing are influenced by classical stuff. I'm sure you are influenced by many other genres to. Can you elucidate on your influences a bit more?

Mark: I know that Joe is very much influenced by Classical and Symphonic music. My playing in Cloud Shepherd is influenced by many years of listening to Improvised Music and Jazz. Cloud Shepherd was my first opportunity to pursue these interests publicly, and I’m eternally grateful for it. 

Brian: One or two of us are Classical music appreciators, although I prefer 20th Century composers such as Morton Feldman, Giacinto Scelsi, Penderecki, and Pärt. I like everything from Terry Riley to Art Ensemble of Chicago to King Crimson, CAN, Sun Ra, Black Flag, Eno, Factory records, and the music of Africa, South-east Asia, and India, etc. Tons of stuff.

Joe: I was the one mainly responsible for including classical and jazz in our list of influences on our Band Camp site. Those are the genres of music that I mostly listen to and play. In classical, I listen to and have been influenced by everything from early music to contemporary; in jazz, mainly from bebop to free jazz . Andrew, Brian, and I are also poets, and I have two books published that deal with music and show some of my influences: An Ives Set, that’s inspired by the music of Charles Ives, and Antiphonal Airs, that consists of three series of poems, all dealing with music, including one section dealing with early baroque, Italian composers, and another section that has poems inspired by diverse composers and musicians like Ornette Coleman, Lee Konitz, Thelonious Monk, Anthony Braxton, Steve Lacy, (all five of which have been big influences on my improvising), and Luigi Nono, Gian Francesco Malipiero, Gianluigi Trovesi, and Pat Martino. And when I practice on my own, I play a lot of Bach and jazz standards, as well as pull patterns from Slonimsky’s Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns. All of this music informs my playing, sometimes simply there in the background, flavouring what I’m doing, sometimes more at the fore, such as many times with the flutes when I draw on twentieth century French flute music. But in the past, I also played electric bass in a Cream-influenced power trio (so there’s the psychedelic influence), and acoustic guitar for Bob Dylanish folk music, so I’m sure some of that music works its way into my playing too. There’s a folk element to my flute playing at times, especially with the bamboo flutes.

Cloud Shepherd live, with Mark's 'Cloud Kit' in its current incarnation.

Dan: Theremin...that's not too common to hear on usual psychedelic records either. What one(s) are you using and what got you into playing it? It is certainly a big part of the Cloud Shepherd sound

Andrew: While the theremin - a gesture-activated electronic instrument - may be less commonly used in psychedelic music than other instruments such as synth and guitar, these days it's probably used more often in psych and space rock than in other musical genres. The otherworldly sound of the theremin is certainly appropriate to psych. Invented in the early twentieth century by the Russian engineer Leon Theremin, the box-shaped instrument with two antennas (one for pitch, the other for volume) was at first used mostly for performing classical music. It fell into disuse during the two world wars,  then was rediscovered by Hollywood composers and used throughout the fifties in the soundtracks of noir and science-fiction films. In the sixties and thereafter, it has mostly been used by rock musicians, especially those playing space rock and psych (e.g., Hawkind, Tangerine Dream, the Stones' Satanic Majesties), and rock experimenters such as Captain Beefheart. Very rarely, the theremin has been used in jazz settings (as in Yusef Lateef's "Sound Wave" on his album A Flat, G Flat and C). As for how I picked up the theremin: almost ten years ago, a state-of-the-art Moog Etherwave theremin was given to me by friends who noticed my enthusiasm for the sound of the instrument. My main activity at that time was writing poetry influenced by science fiction and surrealism; I'd written a piece entited "Constellations for Theremin" which prompted their gift of the instrument. I taught myself to play it, with guidance and encouragement from my fellow poet/musicians Brian Lucas and Joseph Noble. We formed a drone trio called Free Rein that, after some years, evolved into Cloud Shepherd. We were soon joined by Mark Pino and our sound subsequently deepened and diversified (although drone remains a significant part of what we do). I've written an essay, "The Theremin in My Life," about the relation between my poetic and musical activity.

Joe: You’ll have to refer to Andrew’s answer for this question. But I will say that, yes, the theremin is a big part of our sound. Andrew weaves it in and out and between notes, and he definitely has his own sound and approach to the instrument that is unique. He’s a bit of a tonal gymnast.

Andrew's spectacular Moog Etherwave Theremin.

Dan: Carrying on with instruments, what other instruments are being used on your records? 

Mark: Waterphone, found percussion, flutes from various regions of the world, etc.

Brian: Wooden flutes, saxophones, electric bass, [cassette] tapes, lots of percussion, pedal effects, electronics…..Roto-toms!

Joe: I laid this out in my answer to the first question, but, yes, we do have quite a variety of instruments, and very different ones played by each member of the group. The most unusual ones of mine are probably the alto and bass flutes, and the suling and Thai bamboo flutes. They don’t turn up in most groups, period. Mark has a whole array of percussion instruments that he uses, and Brian creates all kinds of aural environments when he does his tape/electronic thing, creating sound washes/maps that the other three of us move within and without. And, of course, then there’s the theremin.

Dan: Also, Can you tell us a bit more about Mark's 'Cloud Kit' percussion array? 

Mark: The Cloud Kit was initially a floor-based assemblage of various percussion instruments that I played while sitting on my knees. It was conceived pragmatically, as the space in which I had initial rehearsals with Cloud Shepherd was quite cramped. In hindsight, I feel that it was also a temporary rejection of the tradition drum kit, which I’d been playing for many years. I had gotten really tired of its limitations and certain contemporary aspects of its aesthetics. The Cloud Kit is now a kind or morphed drum kit; I have to sit on a regular drum throne, as my back can no longer take the slumping and bending that I was doing to start out. I use the term “Cloud Kit” as a way of differentiating Cloud Shepherd from the various other bands/projects that I play in. This is done as a tribute to the band, which I cherish. 

Brian: It used to be played on the ground: gongs, cymbals, Korean tom tom, effect pedals, metal, bongos…now Mark’s sitting on a chair and playing a slightly more conventional kit, but with Roto-toms, and no snare.

The original incarnation of the 'Cloud Kit'.

Dan: I sense that you guys might not be deliberately trying to be psychedelic, but obviously I think you are in part, haha. Would you see what you create as psychedelic? And what are your thoughts on the whole 'psych' scene?

Mark: I feel that we are just deliberately trying to make the most creative music that we can. I love the worldwide Psych Music scene, and I salute all creative musicians and artists and listeners that are involved with it. Corporate Rock (and Jazz) Still Sucks!

Brian: I’ve been playing some form of “psychedelic” or improvised music for 25 years. Cloud Shepherd certainly plays a form of “psychedelic” music, although it wouldn’t be the first term to enter my mind if someone asked what kind of music we played. And I doubt if we’ll ever be invited to play at the Austin or Tokyo Psych Fests! But if free, expansive, and ritualistic are considered “psychedelic” then we definitely are. (As for the psych rock scene now: Gnod and Dagha Bloom are two recent favorites.) 

Joe: Yes, I don’t think we are deliberately trying to be psychedelic, but I can see how what we do can fall into the psychedelic arena. In the power trio I played in when I was younger, much of what we played was psychedelic, and I listened to psychedelic music from the 1960s and 1970s when I was younger (and have been going back to some of that stuff now too). Like a lot of that music, Cloud Shepherd performs long space jams. We don’t base our improvisations, though, on a song form, or start from that, but the whole thing is improvisation. And the drone dimension lends itself to psychedelia.

Dan: As the band has progressed, has it become a more serious, formal arrangement? Earlier tracks like Snails seem more wimsical, whereas the latest release, 'Xenoglossia', seems more 'proper' and official. 

Mark: It’s my feeling that Cloud Shepherd is just like many other bands, in that our sound has morphed over time. I can definitely agree that the earlier stuff had a bit more whimsy. Believe me, our recording sessions are just as loopy as ever! Xenoglossia definitely has more percussive drive more progressive bass guitar playing. It’s my hope that every Cloud Shepherd recording is different, but imbued with quality. 

Brian: We seriously enjoy playing together. It’s a fairly formal arrangement: we are a quartet, but we have invited others to play with us from time to time. Xenoglossia is certainly our only album to attract such a wide (for us) response. It’s probably helped that folks already know about Sky Lantern and that Nik promotes the albums. 

Joe: I don’t know if we’ve become more serious. There are always both serious and playful dimensions to our music. But it has changed. Part of the change was when Mark joined the band, and the sound changed a lot, got louder, fuller, with more dimensions to it, than our earlier trio work which was quieter, softer, more drone based, and maybe more moody. And I think that there was a certain exploratory tentativeness to the early work – we were just getting to know each other musically – that had a certain delicacy to it. Snails is more whimsical, especially the track titles, which came from Brian. (On “Wailing Snails,” listen to Andrew’s maniacal snail calls on theremin while Brian [waterphone and electronics] and I [bass flute and percussion} provide environmental ambience). With Xenoglossia, Nik Rayne was kind enough to ask us for an album to release on his label, Sky Lantern, so we got together to record music specifically for that album, so there was more deliberateness to our playing for that particular project. But, yes, things have evolved and changed; we talk about how things go in sessions or after gigs and discuss what we want to be doing. And what we play and what instruments we play has changed. Speaking for myself, I play percussion hardly ever any more – now with Mark’s expert drumming. Also, I do less vocals now than before, favouring the instrumental instead, and I might be a little more aggressive and complex in my improvisational lines than before. Also, I’ve evolved how I use electronics myself with my woodwinds, especially with the flutes, hopefully becoming more proficient with the electronics and realizing their potential more. But it’s always a process of evolution. I’m sure the other guys will say how their own playing has changed over time too. We’ve been together now for six years.

Dan: Talking of Xenoglossia, it's nice to see you guys getting some recognition for your great work! How did the collaboration with Sky Lantern Records come about?

Mark: We are so grateful to Nik for reaching out to us and releasing a Cloud Shepherd cassette on Sky Lantern. As far as I know, he contacted Brian, and Brian did the project management of getting the recordings to Nik. Again, Joe did a ton of work in post production, in order to get the initial recordings shaped, named, and formatted.

Brian: Nik found us on Bandcamp and contacted us, which was so unexpected. I can’t thank him enough for having an interest in our music.

Joe: Yes, it was very nice of Nik to ask us for an album and to write such kind words about our music. We are very appreciative of him and what he is doing.

Left to right: Brian Lucas, Mark Pino, Andrew Joron, and Joesph Noble.

Dan: Lastly, What's next for Cloud Shepherd? 

Mark: Hopefully, we’ll continue to record and play shows! We don’t have any sort of grand plan; it’s just one step at a time. 

Brian: Some of the music on Xenoglossia was recently used as a soundtrack for a short documentary called “A Bridge Between Worlds: The Myth of the Silk Road” by Michael Dean. It can be viewed here: I don’t think we have any solid plans at the moment, although if someone wanted to book a European tour for us... But a local gig would be fine, too.

Joe: On our Band Camp site, we have a new album that contains our performance at Foundry Nights in Berkeley, CA, on August 23, 2014, and an “album” of videos of some of our performances. Our two week tour of Saturn is coming up in November, and after that we will hitch a ride on Voyager to the outer rim.

Mark: Thanks, Daniel, for giving us a public platform with which to express ourselves. 

Do You Even Psychedelic? issues a huge thanks to all of the guys in the band, an interview worthy of academic status! 

Find Cloud Shepherd's latest release here, out on Sky Lantern Records (interview here).

Find the band's full discography here, (includes all of their records - live and studio).

Also make sure to like the band's Facebook page here so you can keep in the loop with this awesome band!

Interview conducted by Daniel Sharman.