Nebula Interview & Full Album Stream Pt. 1: Let it Burn

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[Click play above to stream the new reissue of Nebula’s Let it Burn in its entirety. Album is out Jan. 26 via Heavy Psych Sounds.]

Later this week, Heavy Psych Sounds begins an exploration of Nebula‘s early works by reissuing the California fuzz-psych innovators’ 1998 debut EP, Let it Burn. It is the first of a three-part series of bonus-track-inclusive versions the label will put out from Nebula on CD and LP, and will be followed in the coming weeks by their 1999 debut full-length, To the Center (previously discussed here) and the 2002 compilation Dos EPs, covering the sum total of the output the trio released with its original lineup of guitarist/vocalist Eddie Glass, bassist Mark Abshire and drummer Ruben Romano.

Accordingly, as each new offering arrives, I’ll be hosting a full stream of the new version and a corresponding three-part interview with Romano about the making of that given release, what life was like in Nebula at the time, the band’s enduring legacy, what he recalls from the recording sessions, and much more. Today the discussion begins with recollections from the Let it Burn era.

Nebula‘s origin story is fairly well known, with Romano and Abshire departing Fu Manchu and joining on with Glass in the then-new power trio, thereby setting in motion the beginnings of a legacy that, 20 years later, is nothing if not worthy of the attention these reissues are paying it. From the rolling nod of “Down the Highway” to the already-gone-far-out shift from “Raga in the Bloodshot Pyramid” into the scorching, later-added “Sonic Titan,” Let it Burn remains the nexus point of Nebula‘s enduring and international influence.

The new version’s bonus tracks come in the form of a performance of the title-cut from Roskilde Festival in 2000 and a 1997 Glass-recorded home demo of “Devil’s Liquid” that’s as effective in capturing the urgency of the three-piece in their nascence as it is raw sounding. The Stooges would hear it and be jealous. Together, they emphasize different aspects of the force that Nebula were from their outset, and I could not be more thrilled to have Romano telling that story across this and the other two interview chapters to follow. Really. Keep an eye out for the others on Feb. 13 and Feb. 27, respectively, because this is whole thing awesome.

Please enjoy:

nebula let it burn

Let it Burn Q&A with Ruben Romano

Tell me about being in the band at this point. What was the vibe like in Nebula when you first got going?

The vibe was exciting, it was a no-holds-barred, in-your-face-type vibe with a lot of energy. We were free and ready to roll with nothing holding us back and there was nothing getting in our way. At least that was how I was feeling at the time. My ears were open, my eyes were open and my mind was open. I yelled bring it on at the top of my lungs and Eddie was right there beside me. Charge, Blitz, Attack and Kick Ass! Elevate! That was the vibe I wanted to exhibit and include everybody into. That’s the kind of record Let it Burn was and why “Elevation” was a great track to start it off with!

What do you remember about the recording process? These years later, what most stands out about the experience, and how does it feel to revisit these songs now?

We spent three days if I recall up at Rancho de la Luna with Fred Drake. It was a typical recording session in a not so typical place. Man, listening to them again brings it all back. We tracked drums with guitars together live then overdubbed all the spice on top. Eddie played his ripping leads, I played the sitar. When we did percussions, Eddie and I did it all together and live. We totally collaborated on this record.

Eddie wrote the tunes and I wrote a lot of the lyrics on that one. “Let it Burn,” “Down the Highway,” “Dragon Eye” were all majority my words and Eddie throwing in on a verse and chorus here and there. “Dragon Eye” was my favorite as it was about my hunt for the elusive Quaalude or Mandrax in the UK that disappeared around 1985. It had all the references in there like “When you hear the lion RORER, pass the 714″ — Rorer 714 was the inscription on the pill — “the sky is
lemon” (methaqualone), “yellow” (L.S.D.), “got a rainbow outside my door” (barbituates). Like I said, I opened my mind plenty at that time in my life and always had a pad of paper with a pencil in my pocket. It was cool having older cousins who told me stories about the good ones, ya know.

Back to recording, Eddie played bass on it. That’s how the Tee Pee Records version is, (the tracklisting on that version is also wrong, got “Dragon Eye” and “Vulcan Bomber” mixed up). Mark joined the band after we recorded it and then later we recorded “Sonic Titan” and “Devil’s Liquid” with him and that got added to the Relapse version of Let it Burn. At first, It was initially just a six-song demo and we actually duped about 50/100 cassettes, I cant remember how many, maybe even as little as 25, as we were broke. I drew up a silly logo and xeroxed it to make a cover for it and passed it to people looking for a label to release it.

We hooked up with Steve Kutcher and Rob Gill, whom we met at a CMJ conference while we were still in Fu Manchu, and sent them the tape. They were the only ones who would even talk to us, They wanted to manage us so we agreed and then we met Tony Presedo. I was asked to pick him up at the airport in L.A. and when I did, he had no real place to stay so I invited him to crash at our pad and that’s how it happened. Eddie and I were roommates then, subleasing a sweet condo off Alan Glass, Eddie‘s brother. We had some killer times at that place. When the leasing office found out we were evicted so fast!!

How was the response when it was first released, and what do you think has allowed Let it Burn to stay relevant 20 years later?

Our immediate friends either loved it or didn’t know how to tell us that it sucked. People weren’t fully ready for it I guess. We got that “Well, um yeah,” reaction by some and, “F’Yeah! This is INSANE!” reactions by others. As I said before, it was an in-your-face record that took a lot of chances. I mean, we had a sitar instrumental on it!!

Funny story about that: My old high school friend Tommy, who I bought the sitar from, was hanging around a lot at that time, just drifting in L.A. He’s the only one who caught the naive notion that the tune’s title was so geographically wrong! He said, “Funny that you call it a raga, from India, but include a pyramid from Egypt — that’s two totally different continents.” I responded, “Well, its got the sitar and I’ve been reading a lot of Robert Anton Wilson books about the Illuminatus, so for me it fits.” At least I had a response, right?

Anything else you’d like to say about Let it Burn in particular?

With Let it Burn we knew we had to come out of the gate kicking ass with something. The Fu thing kind of beat us down, at least it tried to, as it taught me that typical chewed up and spat out music industry thing. However, mentally we were in full motion still with so much pent up energy that Fu Manchu did not allow us to emit. We, at least I was, “C’mon already!” and when we freed up from all that, we really came on with it! It was definitely an exciting moment in my life! Definitely proud of my involvement with Eddie and this release, no doubt.

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2 Responses to “Nebula Interview & Full Album Stream Pt. 1: Let it Burn

  1. Holy J says:

    Nebula Rules??????

  2. Holy J says:

    I meant Rules!!!!!

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