Six Dumb Questions with Lee Van Cleef

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on June 14th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

lee van cleef

There’s not much mystery behind what makes a group like Lee Van Cleef work. The Italian instrumentalists debuted in 2016 with Holy Smoke (review here), releasing the album digitally at first and then on vinyl through Berlin’s White Dwarf Records, and the appeal came through loud and clear in the distorted fuzz of Marco Adamo‘s guitar, the warmth in Pietro Trinità La Tegola‘s bass and the rolling grooves propelled by Guido Minervini‘s drums. Without any of these, songs like the 13-minute “Banshee” or opener “Heckle Yuppies” wouldn’t have worked. Simple answer? Chemistry. It’s what makes the whole thing go.

Seems obvious, right?

Well, obvious it might be, but it’s also much easier said than done. At a time when Europe is awash in instrumental (or mostly instrumental) jam-based heavy psychedelic rock, for a three-piece like Lee Van Cleef to come along and manage to distinguish themselves from the pack on their first full-length is not insignificant. From the patient rollout in the aforementioned leadoff through the airy lead work that tops closer “Towelie” and the nod-ready Spring 2017 follow-up digital single Everyone Should Kill an Old Hippy (discussed here), on which watery wah borders on delivering a vocal line here and there, Lee Van Cleef emerge with a sense of spaciousness and a tonality of their own. They’ve only been around since 2015. Some bands barely pick up their instruments in their first two years of existence. Lee Van Cleef would seem to have clearly defined their aesthetic approach and already set about pushing it forward.

In light of that progression underway, it’s a great time to check in with Adamo and get a sense of the band’s origins, where they’re coming from, what was “the joke” that reportedly got them together, and what they have in store for the rest of 2017 and beyond. Before we get to the Q&A, let me just say I extra appreciate the guitarist taking the time for the interview considering the language barrier to do it in English. I know there’s no way my ignorant ass would fare nearly so well in Italian, so I am grateful for the effort.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

Six Dumb Questions with Lee Van Cleef

You’ve said that Lee Van Cleef formed as a joke. Can you let us in on what initially got you together in 2015? What was the joke, and at what point did you realize you had something in the jams that was really worth pursuing on a more serious level?

Maybe more than a joke it’s been something unpretentious and unplanned. We all had other projects at the time and Lee Van Cleef was born to experiment and basically have fun doing what we liked the most. I called Guido and Pietro and even if I knew they both were guitarists, I also knew they could play drum and bass. In a city like ours it’s hard to think about a project like this and hope to receive any kind of feedback. I’m not saying there’s no people who listen to this kind of music, but clubs they don’t really give much space to this music. It’s not that cool to play 10-minute jams with neverending guitar solos and just a few major chords!

But we didn’t really care and we did it. For us, mainly. We underestimated the web power, but when we realized we had something that was working we recorded it at the best we could and we put it on Bandcamp. After a while, Olaf [Angermund] from White Dwarf got in touch with us after having listened to us at the radio. The rest is history (laughs). The most important thing is that we’re still doing all of this for us and even if we had a lot of positive feedbacks, and we are really grateful to those who spent some of their time to listen to us.

Tell me about putting together the Holy Smoke album. What was the recording like? How long were you in the studio for it and how many of the songs were born from those early jams from when the band was starting out?

We recorded the tracks in a studio here in Naples called Godfather. We locked ourselves up for two days and we recorded everything live… as if it was a live session. When Olaf got in touch with us, proposed us to release vinyls as soon as possible, but at the time we only had three tracks, but after a few months we composed “Hell Malo,” “Heckle Yuppies” and “Towelie.” So than we went to the studio to record Holy Smoke. Everything was fast cause as I said everything was live. Two days to record and three/four days for mixing.

How did you get hooked up with White Dwarf Records for the vinyl release of Holy Smoke? What did it mean to you to get your first record put out as an LP?

For us it was totally unexpected as I said. We will always be grateful to White Dwarf to bet on us because it would have never happened here in Italy. For Italian labels it would have been too risky. Olaf just texted us on Facebook. Thank you dude.

You released the “Everyone Should Kill an Old Hippy” single earlier this Spring. What’s wrong with old hippies? And more importantly, will this track feature on the next Lee Van Cleef album?

Ahahahahahah I was expecting it. Actually we have nothing against old hippies. My dad was an old hippie. It’s more a joke. A provocation. A way to detach from a deeply-rooted tradition, from some attitudes. Here in Naples, at least, old hippies are that radical chic dudes who live in million euros houses. They send their children to private schools and lock them up at home because in the street there are evil people. Are those who ask you to turn down the volume if you are listening Jimi Hendrix. It’s just a provocation. I don’t think we’re going to kill anybody. Anyway, probably we could record another version in the next album, as we did with “Banshee” and “Mahana”…we don’t know yet…

Have you started work on a second record? Any idea how the material might develop going forward from the debut, and is there anything specific you want to build on or change coming off of Holy Smoke? Where is Lee Van Cleef headed sound-wise?

We’re working on new tracks, we are also preparing a Creedence cover (spoiler) and thinking about doing some experiments, like using more voice, or some synth… We will see

Will you do any touring this year? Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

We’ll be at Red Smoke Festival in July; we’re working also for other dates. Certainly we’ll be touring in Germany, France and maybe Spain on next Autumn. We’d like to play more here in Italy and we hope to do that. I don’t deny that is pretty hard because this kind of music is not too much listened, at least in some part of the country. By the way we have no booking right now. We try to do all this shit alone and this make the work more difficult… If you add to this that we are incredibly lazy, it is a mortal mix! Probably we’ll release some other track suddenly, as we love to do.

Lee Van Cleef, “Everyone Should Kill an Old Hippy”

Lee Van Cleef on Thee Facebooks

Lee Van Cleef on Bandcamp

White Dwarf Records on Thee Facebooks

White Dwarf Records on Bandcamp

White Dwarf Records website

Tags: , , , , ,

The Obelisk Radio Adds: Big Kizz, Mt. Mountain, Mage, Hypertonus, Lee Van Cleef

Posted in Radio on May 22nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk radio cavum

We’re only slightly overdue for a batch of adds to The Obelisk Radio. I need to start setting a reminder or something. By the time this post goes up, my hope is that we’ll actually be off the backup server and back on the full or at least mostly-full playlist. It’s been a long road, as the terrible opening theme to Star Trek: Enterprise once said, but I think Slevin has it ready to roll, and there’s still some rebuilding to do, but I think it can be an ongoing thing working on the new hard drive. We’ve worn the crap out of that backup playlist. It would be nice to not have to use it for a while. Fingers crossed, anyhow.

Whichever server these files wind up on, they’ll be joining some playlist as soon as humanly possible. Let’s do the rundown in the meantime.

The Obelisk Radio Adds for May 22, 2017:

Big Kizz, Eye on You

big kizz eye on you

Some who take on the debut single from Swedish trio Big Kizz will find the band reminiscent of some of the rawer moments of long-running Danish garage-psych rockers Baby Woodrose, but for many, an additional draw to the three-track/eight-minute offering (delivered via Tee Pee Records) will be the lineup, which features bassist John Hoyles (Spiders, ex-Witchcraft), guitarist/vocalist Pontus Westerman (also of Lady Banana), and perhaps most notably, drummer Axel Sjöberg in his first recorded appearance after splitting with Graveyard. Turns out he’s still a fantastic drummer. His play in leadoff cut “Eye on You” and the push he brings to “Baby Boy” and the closing Roky Erickson cover “White Faces” will surely lead some to relate Big Kizz to Sjöberg‘s former outfit, if only in their earliest going (which was also on Tee Pee, remember), but the truth is the trio show themselves to be on a different trip throughout Eye on You, as they bring the aforementioned garage stylization forward amid classic boogie and, particularly in “Baby Boy,” nod toward mid-’60s psychedelia in a quick but fluid bridge. The Roky Erickson cover could hardly be more fitting, handclaps and all, but it’s the sense of movement in the two originals that shows the most potential here as Big Kizz seem to set their eyes on establishing their dynamic and building from there. Will be interested to hear what they do with the context of a full-length and if some of the psych in “Eye on You” and “Baby Boy” is relegated to flourish or if it comes to the fore as they develop, but they’re off to a rousing start.

Big Kizz on Thee Facebooks

Big Kizz at Tee Pee Records

 

Mt. Mountain Dust

mt. mountain dust

Devotees and pilgrims of longform psychedelia will no doubt and should rejoice at Dust (on Cardinal Fuzz), the maybe-second long-player from Perth, Australia, five-piece Mt. Mountain, which from its 17-minute titular opener and longest track (immediate points) unfolds a ritual of superior immersion and conscious trance inducement. Over the course of four songs/37 minutes total, Mt. Mountain unfold a sprawl reportedly intended to capture the atmosphere of the Australian Outback — and maybe they get there, I don’t know; I’ve never been — but either way, the balance of repetition and depth in “Floating Eyes” and the shimmer of the nine-minute “Kokoti” speak to a varied ecosystem that, indeed, one might get lost in, never to return. Mellotron, organ, djembe and percussion play a central role in the overarching sense of mind-expansion along with the guitar, bass, vocals, drums, etc., but it’s the combination of elements, the variety between tracks — they’re jam-based, but distinct songs, to be sure — that really stands Dust apart from much of drift-minded modern heavy psych. One advises patience with the drones of the opener and the cautious first steps that the fading in percussion seems to be taking, as the rewards are considerable when it comes to the front-to-back experience Mt. Mountain offer, which is stark, striking, marked by underlying threat and casts a feeling of the infinite that no doubt was the very intent behind its making.

Mt. Mountain on Thee Facebooks

Cardinal Fuzz webstore

 

Mage, Green

mage green

Self-released in a six-panel digipak with decidedly grim artwork courtesy of Dominic SohorGreen is the third full-length from Leicestershire, UK, heavy rockers Mage. Last heard from with 2014’s Last Orders (review here), they retain the blend of heavy rock groove and metallic aggression that’s become their signature sound, and continue the march forward in finding a space between post-Down/Orange Goblin dude-rockery and doomlier fare. Vocalist Tom blends harsh growls and a cleaner approach on opener “Nowhere to Nothing” and the later “Primitive Drive” while mostly avoiding sounding like Phil Anselmo, and as guitarist Woody, bassist Mark and drummer Andy dig into the slower roll of “Eclipse King,” Mage seem to hit the mark they’re shooting for in terms of style and songcraft. The centerpiece title-track has a little more head-bob to its central progression — and then there’s that wah; always fun — but they’re right to mess around with the proportion of stylistic elements throughout to add variety, and the 10-minute closer “Vultures Mass” does well in taking the punch of “Nowhere to Nothing” and “Heroic Elegy” at the album’s start and pushing it outward into a satisfying apex. Straightforward in its intent, given a sense of mass via a recording job at Skyhammer Studios and executed with a clean conscience, Green is the work of a band who know what they want from their sound and know how to make it happen, which, thankfully, they do in these tracks.

Mage on Thee Facebooks

Mage on Bandcamp

 

Hypertonus, Tidal Wave

hypertonus tidal wave

Tidal Wave is the self-issued debut full-length from German instrumentalist three-piece Hypertonus, and it lands some six years after the band first got together, preceded by a semi-eponymous 2013 EP, HPRTNS. If the more-than-half-a-decade stretch seems like a while for a group to get to their first long-player, it might be, but one suspects the Bremen-based troupe comprised of guitarist Patrick Büch, bassist Arne Staats and drummer Hannes Christen spent a significant amount of that time in the jam room developing their sound, because what they cast over this nine-track/45-minute outing is a keen progressivism and chemistry that feels not at all happenstance. With shifts into and out of technically-minded parts that seem to be driven by Staats‘ bass, Hypertonus reportedly tracked Tidal Wave live, and I have no reason not to believe it, particularly given the eight-minute closer “Phantasmagoria (Improvisation Jam),” which departs from the quick psych-meditation of “Aeropause” and the almost jazzy rhythms and post-rock guitar of “Expect the Sky Below” to bring the band’s style even more to life for the listener to take on. It’s a heady release, and some of the changes come across as willfully choppy — playing with expectation in a “now we’re over here!” kind of way — but there’s a marked sense of accomplishment throughout that’s nothing if not well earned.

Hypertonus on Thee Facebooks

Hypertonus on Bandcamp

 

Lee Van Cleef, Holy Smoke

lee van cleef holy smoke

Pressed to gorgeous-sounding vinyl by White Dwarf Records last November, the five-track instrumental Holy Smoke is the debut LP from Naples, Italy, jammers Lee Van Cleef, and aside from its righteously striking cover art, one finds primary impressions in the gotta-hear-it bass tone of Pietro Trinità La Tegola, the molten lysergism in Marco Adamo‘s guitar and the grounding-but-not-too-grounding effectiveness of drummer Guido Minervini in anchoring a jam like the 13-minute “Banshee,” which takes the best lessons of groups like Germany’s Electric Moon and Portugal’s Black Bombaim and brings them to methodical, engagingly rumbling fruition. Nod persists through the more uptempo, Tee Pee Records-style centerpiece “Hell Malo,” but the three-piece seem even more comfortable dug into the post-Sleep riffing of the subsequent “Mah?na,” finishing that track with a standout wash of a guitar lead ahead of the brighter-feeling closer “Towelie,” which underscores an otherworldly vibe that turns out to have been in Holy Smoke all along. Lee Van Cleef have already followed Holy Smoke up with a single titled “Everyone Should Kill an Old Hippy” (discussed here) — it’s worth noting that this album starts with “Heckle Yuppies,” so they’re not fans of them either — and one can’t imagine it will be long before they answer back with another full-length offering. The question is how they’ll ultimately distinguish themselves from the crowded European jam-based heavy psych underground, but there’s nothing in these tracks to give the impression they can’t or won’t do so as they continue to grow.

Lee Van Cleef on Thee Facebooks

White Dwarf Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Lee Van Cleef to Release Holy Smoke Vinyl Nov. 25

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 25th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

lee-van-cleef

I gotta tell you, I never wanted there to be a band called Yul Brynner so badly in my entire life, just so they could go on tour with Lee Van Cleef and do a poster for every single show in a Spaghetti Western theme. As it stands, I suppose Lee Van Cleef could probably pull that one off on their own and get away with it. The newcomer Napoli four-piece are streaming their debut album, Holy Smoke, in its echoed-out mostly-instrumental heavy psych spaciousness below — if it wasn’t already on Bandcamp, I’d have asked to do a stream with a review, make no mistake — and Berlin-based White Dwarf Records will have a vinyl edition out on Nov. 25. No word on a tour to support, never mind posters, but for a group who’ve been around less than a year and are already putting their first LP out, I’d say they’ve got plenty enough to go on as they get started.

Italy’s emergence as a major player in the European heavy underground continues. Don’t be surprised if Lee Van Cleef start popping up in festival lineups for 2017.

This from the PR wire:

lee-van-cleef-holy-smoke

LEE VAN CLEEF – Holy Smoke (WHD 007)

The project LEE VAN CLEEF was born as a joke at the end of 2015 and is the result of long jam sessions between Marco Adamo, guitarist (La polvere di Bodélé), Guido Minervini, drum (Efesto, Lamarck) and Pietro La Tegola, bass (Whiskeycold Winter). Influenced by bands like Earthless, Black Bombaim, Harsh Toke (to name a few) The first work “Holy Smoke” was recorded mixed and mastered in the Godfather studio of Naples. The artwork was done by Robin Gnista.

Limited edition of 150 copies on purple marbled 180 gram vinyl! Inside-out-cover, including download card!

Limited edition of 350 copies on black 180 gram vinyl! Inside-out-cover, including download card!

TRACKLIST:
1. Heckle Yuppies 07:27 min.
2. Banshee 13:18 min.
3. Hell Malo 05:12 min.
4. Mah?na 08:27 min.
5. Towelie 07:11 min.

Label: White Dwarf
Release: 25.11.2016

LEE VAN CLEEF are:
Marco Adamo (Guitar)
Pietro Trinità La Tegola (Bass)
Guido Minervini (Drums)

https://www.facebook.com/leevancleefjams/
https://leevancleefjams.bandcamp.com/
https://whitedwarf3.bandcamp.com/album/lee-van-cleef-holy-smoke-whd-007

Lee Van Cleef, Holy Smoke (2016)

Tags: , , , , ,