(Credit: Ana Grave)

Interview: MUSK

Back in September Holy Mountain belched out Musk’s self-titled debut. As an astonishingly refreshing piece of guitar music, it was one of the wildest rollercoaster rides of the year. On the record, ricocheting vocals, deranged melody and sludgy riffs fight to take hold as swamp-like nausea permeates throughout. It’s Captain Beefheart playing the blues at the gates of hell. Sewage secreted from every orifice.

The Bay Area band worked with Chris Woodhouse on the record, the man behind pretty much every great San Franciscan garage record of the last five years. Unfortunately we still have no live UK plans to announce for you, but we do have the exclusive UK stream of the band playing amidst a storm at some kind of dystopian sea front for PressureDrop TV – at the bottom of the page.

We caught up with guitarist Chris Owen just before the show.

FO: How does it feel to be playing live to the world?

Chris: “A little strange, we’re really going to be playing outside to an empty parking lot, during a large thunderstorm, so it’s a novelty for us. It might be a stretch to say the whole world is going to see it, but it will be a nice way for our moms to spend the afternoon in front of their computers.”

You released 125 custom copies of the record with the “Musk meat” cover. Who made it?

“Our singer Rob Fletcher went to art school to do horror movie makeup in the early nineties, around the time the need for that sort of died.  He felt like record sleeves are so awful these days he had to fight against it and do something original. They’re basically latex Halloween masks for your LP.  Recently he had been doing props for a local horror theatre Thrillpeddlers and some other film shorts, so the supplies were around the house. It was supposed to just be one for the cover photo-shoot, but once it was sculpted and cast it seemed silly to stop there. He had to pour them up and hand paint them, so it takes like 3-5 hours to make each one. Hopefully, we will have other interesting record covers in the future, if there is a future.”

The record often sounds like the wheels are just about to come off but never let the careering train come close to a stop.

“We tend not to play things the same way twice and if you watch the live stream you will get your own opportunity to see how poorly we end our songs.”

Is it a similar approach to recording Musk?

“We recorded with Chris Woodhouse, who told us beforehand we would need at least four days to make a full record, and that would be pushing it. We couldn’t afford that long, so we did the whole thing in two days, which worked out all right after all.  We recorded every song live in one or two takes. The vocals were done the second day with overdubs on about half and we stayed up almost all night mixing it. I came back another day a few weeks later to change a few minor things but it was pretty much all done live in two days.”

What was it like working with Chris?

“It was great, he speaks our language, like he kept telling us “more Stick Men With Ray Guns!”.  You don’t find a lot of engineers saying that. We didn’t go in there intending to replicate the Oh Sees or anyone else he has recorded, more so we wanted to work with him because of the sounds he got on his own Mayyors records.  He isn’t afraid to do things wrong, like when it says “Muuuusk” out of nowhere a minute into the record, or some of the non-musical overdubs.  He is creative. One of the guitar effects you hear was an idea I had to play through two guitar amps that both had their own tremolo on slightly different speeds.  He made it sound cool immediately and throughout the record he’s riding the balance between the two amps.  He gets us so we love him.”

Did doom garage exist before you guys landed?

“We adhere to the doctrines of Platonic realism, so from our perspective, nothing existed until we arrived.”

So now you’ve arrived, what does the future hold for the band?

“In about three hours we are going to play to an empty parking lot behind a closed racetrack and maybe destroy our gear, depending on the weather.  After that, dinner and off to bed by 11, then record another LP in 2015, if there is a future.”

Thanks to Pressure Drop for the stream. Go here for the full set.

Rob McCallum

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