- Wed, 2011-03-09 12:24
Tearing out of Austin, Texas with a mind-bending concoction of psychedelic rock, The Black Angels have gathered a steady underground following, not only through their recorded and live escapades, but via the creation of their very own festival; the Austin Psych Fest, taking place for the fourth year running in 2011.
I Like Music caught up with lead singer Alex Maas just before a Rough Trade in-store, we chat about playing live as music therapy, translating images of the mind into music for the soul and the impact Texan musical heritage has had upon his work.
“I Like Music because…it brings me peace, and it’s therapy.” Alex Maas, The Black Angels
ILM: What do you most look forward to about travelling around and translating your music into the live arena?
Alex: The graet thing about travelling is going to a different town, taking in the culture of the town, feeling it out and tasting the different food. I think the thing about translating the music live for me is the spiritual, improvisational and experimental aspect of the experience. Playing music for me is therapy, so if people come to the show and find therapy in the music then that’s our whole goal and my whole goal as a musician. I want to provide people with music therapy in their life, because it’s tough right now, and people rely heavily on music to get them through their day. I get to be a musical therapist for an hour and a half, or for however much time they give us.
ILM: Out of all of the shows that you’ve played, which have been some of the most memorable? Where has that connection felt the most tangible?
Alex: We’ve had a lot of different amazing ones. On this tour the city of Munich was really cool, but we’ve had so many great shows. It’s hard to say which one is best. Each one is different in their own right, you know? We played La Route du Rock, which is in France, and that was a really special show for us. Another one of my favourite shows was in Paris. That was really nice show, we really felt the connection to the crowd.
ILM: Which have been some of the best shows you’ve seen as a fan?
Alex: I saw Ravi Shankar’s daughter play, Anoushka Shankar, and I was blown away. That was one of my favourite shows.
ILM: How would you describe your process of making music?
Alex: I’m always writing, always strumming and thinking of different ideas. I just sit down sometimes, strum the guitar, play the harmonium or sit down with the bass. Music makes me feel a certain way and I try to describe how I’m feeling. It always provides an image in my mind and I try to describe what I’m seeing and what I’m feeling when I hear the music. It’s very cinematic, very image-based. I try to explain what’s going on in my head when I hear the music, which kind of makes sense because our ears are connected to our limbic system which is where our imagination and all our memories are stored.
ILM: You recently worked with producer Dave Sardy, he's produced some big names including Wolfmother, Marilyn Manson, Oasis, Band of Horses... What was it like working with him?
Alex: Well it’s interesting; it’s like you're painting a picture of yourself and someone comes in and says, after you’re done with the painting, “I think the tree should be there not here,” or “this should be one way not the other way.” It was like having a sixth vibe feeding into our project and at our show. He had great ideas. We didn’t go with all his ideas, but we went with a lot of them. He’s so peaceful and he had a great way of communicating with us and motivating us. So in that respect it was great working with Dave and I’d love to do it again. He’s a great guy.
ILM: How do you push yourself to evolve, to explore new musical territories and avenues as a musician and an artist?
Alex: I think I try to have a lot of different conversations with different people about music, and I try to find new music. I try to search for new music wherever possible. I might be at a theatre and hear some 1930s French music and be inspired by that. I explore all different kinds of music to open my eyes and my mind to different sounds and ideas.
ILM: Austin, Texas is very well known for its musical heritage. What influence has that had on your music and yourself as a musician?
Alex: When I was growing up in Texas my Dad always read old Western tales to me, and we used to listen to country music from the ‘50s and ‘40s. Then I got into other Texas artists and a lot of native American music. Then I got into things like Buddy Holly, The 13th Floor Elevators… They really opened my mind, especially 13th Floor Elevators and Moving Sidewalks. All these bands just really influenced me, they’re really psychedelic.
ILM: Can you tell us about your festival, The Austin Psych Fest?
Alex: It’s kind of our chance to bring all these people together that we’ve met on the road from this psychedelic genre that is so big. We’ve met so many artists from that genre over time and we decided we wanted to bring them all to Austin for one big party in Austin, Texas. We’re trying to preserve the history of Austin psychedelia.
ILM: Cool...What's next for The Black Angels?
Alex: Well we’re definitely going to be recording more; we’re always writing music. Probably during the fall we’ll be writing again and during the summer we’ll come back and do some festivals in the UK. Keep evolving and booking Psych Fest which really is a special thing for us. It’s just getting bigger and bigger every year. It’s great!
For more on The Austin Psych Fest, head to www.austinpsychfest.com