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Six Organs of Admittance Frontman Discusses Heavy New Album ‘Ascent’

Posted by Billy Gil, September 18, 2012 04:40pm | Post a Comment
six organs of admittance ben chasnySix Organs of Admittance main man Ben Chasny is a prolific sort, logging nearly 30 releases over the past 14 years, counting seven-inches and EPs (but not compilations and collaborations). In all actuality, it’s tough to even keep track of his work, which includes psychedelic folk music (at one point called “freak folk” or any other number of silly things); experimental, drone and ambient music; as well as straight-up psych rock, which comes out in full force on his latest album — and one of his best — Ascent. Recorded with members of his much-loved psych-rock band Comets on Fire, who released a couple of awesome albums in the mid-2000s, Ascent is a trip, firing off from the Comets-style wordless guitar assault of “Waswasa” into the ’60s style psych of “Close to the Sky,” the swirling drone-based “They Called You Near” and folkier passages like the lovelorn “Your Ghost.” It’s a nice entry point for Chasny’s work, encompassing many of the sounds with which he’s been associated over the years, and signifies a reunion of sorts for that band, which went on hiatus in 2008 and which formed with Chasny over a decade ago. I caught up with Chasny as the album was releasing in August. Six Organs of Admittance play The Echo Friday, Sept. 21, with Matt Kivel (of indie pop group Princeton) and Colossal Yes.
 
PST: How do you approach a new album? Does it come from whatever you happen to be playing and writing at the moment, or do you go in with a specific notion of what you want to do?
 
Chasny: It’s usually sort of a specific notion sort of thing. This record, it just seemed time to do it. I like to do the opposite of whatever the last record was. Asleep on the Floodplain was so acoustic. I thought the best thing would be to do a more loud record. Then I realized we never did the record we would have done 10 years ago and I thought it would be the perfect time.
 
PST: What inspired the heavier rock sound of the new album? Were you inspired by anything you were listening to at the time, or was it really more a reaction to what you had previously recorded?
 
Chasny: I think, that’s always been a side of Six Organs that’s been more of a live thing but that’s never really been captured on record. So I’ve done tours with a live band that was all electric, but I’ve just never done it as a record. And I didn’t want to do a live record to capture it, I just wanted to get into the studio to do that. I just thought it was time to record it in the studio.
 
PST: Who plays on the new album and is in the live band?
 
six organs ascentChasny: On the album it’s all of the Comets guys — it’s just basically Ethan [Miller] and Utrillo [Kushner], Ben Flashman and Noel [von Harmonson]. The touring band is gonna change because everyone does so many different things all the time. If we could get everyone back together, we would probably just tour as Comets or do a Comets record. One of the reasons we don’t play together anymore is just everyone is always doing something different. On the West Coast, all the California shows are gonna have me, Ben Flashman, Utrillo on drums and Noel’s gonna be on guitar. So it’ll be three other Comets guys besides me. The Northwest will have a couple of Comets guys. When we do Europe, it will be a couple of the Comets guys.
 
PST: Did these songs mostly come from jams, from songs you had written at least part of beforehand or both?
 
Chasny: A couple of the songs are older songs that were on older records, on Holy Mountain. Before I joined Comets, all the Comets guys used to back up Six Organs, because Six Organs and Comets would play shows together, but Comets would always play in reall loud bars and no one could really hear the acoustic guitar, so we were doing sort of loud, electric versions before I joined Comets. So we took that idea for the older songs, and then I wrote a bunch of the newer songs in December and sent the guys the demos, and then we worked on those before we recorded.
 
PST: The album does have a live, sort of freewheeling feel. How many takes did you usually do? Did you record it live and/or use overdubs?
 
Chasny: It was all recorded live. There are some overdubs on a couple of songs just to beef it up, some of the slower pieces have overdubbed guitar solos. Most of the tracks were recorded live, and all the guitar solos were record live. I’d say anywhere between four and seven takes on some of the songs. It was pretty spontaneous. We had them all down. It’s not like the songs have hyper complicated time changes or key changes or anything, so it was more about getting a really good feel to the songs.
 
PST: What inspired putting “Your Ghost” on the record, this acoustic number amongst the heavier, live-band material?
 
Chasny: When I was doing the demos, I did all the demos on acoustic guitar anyway. We just transferred them to an electric thing. It was everyone’s opinion that maybe that one should just be acoustic. We were kind of fooling around with it different ways, and we just thought it might kind of break up the record a little bit if we kept it solo acoustic.
 
PST: I really love “Even If You Knew” on the new album. Was the goal with songs like that one and “Waswasa” to just have a great forum to be able to let loose and explore band interplay?
 
Chasny: “Even If You Knew” was a song we used to do 10 years ago. That’s the one song that has co-credit writing for all the Comets guy. Ethan came up with bassline when I lived in Santa Cruz. We all wrote the song together a long time ago. It’s never been recorded. And then “Waswasa,” I wrote when I was at a friend’s house in England, and he had his guitar tuned really strangely in a tuning I’d never used before. I picked it up and that was the song that came out of it. I kind of thought this should be a rock song kinda thing. That was one of the pushing points to make the whole record more of a rock record. I came up with the riff on this acoustic guitar and thought the record should have more of this rock kind of sound. That’s why it’s first on the record and kind of key to it being loud.

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Album Picks: Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, Bill Fay, Lorelei, Plus Albums Out Today

Posted by Billy Gil, August 21, 2012 06:46pm | Post a Comment
ariel pinkI haven’t had any picks per se over the past couple of weeks. Truth be told there just wasn’t that much I was excited about. Then this week comes Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti’s new album, Mature Themes. I was concerned about this one — reports of the band breaking up, then not; an inter-band lawsuit; and a lovely yet somber cover (“Baby”) chosen as the first single. But not to worry; Mature Themes proves to be a tongue-in-cheek title, though its title track does tuck quarter-life crisis neatly into clever lines and jaunty ’70s AM Gold (“I wish I was taller than 5-foot-four/Thirty-five years old/My life spent computing it all”). Ariel Pink has a way of making even self-destruction sound amusing, bouncing lyrics like “Who sank my battleship? I sank my own battletrip” off gooey guitar riffs and organs on Mature Themes’ opener, “Kinski Assasin” (another sample lyric: “suicide dumplings dropping testicle bombs”). It’s as much fun as its predecessor, Ariel Pink’s lo-fi pop breakthrough, Before Today, but with more of a focus on songcraft. “Only in Dreams” has its fair share of neat production flourishes, but it wouldn’t need them to send its ’60s pop hooks into your brain. And with repeated listens, the breadth of bargain-bin pop and forgotten sources reconfigured through Ariel Pink’s art school lens becomes more apparent, and more bewildering. Is “Live it Up” meant to sound like the dream-pop soundtrack to an early NES game? Is “Symphony of the Nymph” both the name and theme song to a sexy straight-to-VHS ’80s comedy? Is “Schnitzel Boogie” actually a boogie, and does that mean I should learn more about boogie? With Ariel Pink, every song seems to occupy its own little sound wave, and surfing between their brilliant colors makes all others seem monochromatic in comparison.
 
bill fayAlso out today is the first album in 40 years from British singer-songwriter Bill Fay. I hadn’t heard Fay’s music previously, but after hearing the stunning Life is People, I’ll be sure to check out his earlier work. “There is a Valley” is a spiritual of sorts personifying the trees, sheep and flowers that surround humanity, detailing how they’ve born witness to the destruction caused by humanity. It doesn’t come off as preachy, but rather, when taken with the album’s title, allows its listeners to see the bigger picture of humanity as one element that impacts its environment more than any other. It helps that Fay’s voice evokes rare wisdom, like a subtler Leonard Cohen or calmer Patti Smith. While many of the songs on Life is People invite somber meditation, based around ominous orchestration, there’s also a fighting spirit that saves Life is People from too much cynicism — even as lines call to mind the struggles of the working poor on “This World,” a collaboration from admirer Jeff Tweedy (of Wilco, who covered Fay’s “Be Not So Fearful” in their documentary I Am Trying to Break Your Heart), the song benefits from a sunny, alt-country delivery. Similarly, “The Healing Day” is so lush that even its bittersweet tone feels comforting, as Fay sings a simple line like “it’ll be OK” and sends shivers down your spine. But you don’t have to take my word for it — listen to a full album stream below and pick up a copy of Life is People.
 

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Ben Chasny of Six Organs of Admittance Chats

Posted by Miss Ess, August 6, 2009 02:37pm | Post a Comment
Ben Chasny is the man, the myth from Drag City guitar fest Six Organs of Admittance. Sounds like the making of his latest record, Luminous Light, out August 18, was some seriously risky business, what with the Turkish prison-style atmosphere and all! Check out our correspondance below:

ben chasny

Miss Ess: What music did you hear in your house when you were growing up, before you had a choice? Do you think this music had any influence on you?
rolling stones tattoo you
Ben Chasny: The Rolling Stones - Tattoo You. Well, I have a crazy tribal backplate, so yes.

ME: When did you pick up the guitar?

BC: When I realized it was a lot easier to play like that than when it was lying on the ground (waa waaaa).

ME: When and how did you start writing songs?

BC: When I was 3. I wrote a song called "The Futility of the Rattle" inspired by Sartre. I've tried to simplify things since then.

ME: How has living in Seattle as opposed to the Bay Area influenced your latest batch of songs?

BC: Well, I can still look California here but feel Minnesota. Or is it thsix organs luminous lighte other way around?

ME: What made you ready to move away from a mostly guitar-based sound for this album?

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