The Obelisk Questionnaire: Scott Reeder

Posted in Questionnaire on December 23rd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

There are very few in or around heavy rock in any of its iterations who can boast a resumé to rival that of Scott Reeder. As bassist in Across the River with Mario Lalli (Fatso Jetson), Mark Anderson and Alfredo Hernandez (later Kyuss), he took part in one of the formative moments of desert rock, and would later reinforce its ascent in Kyuss, playing on their seminal final two albums only after joining with Scott “Wino” Weinrich in the revitalized The Obsessed for their 1991 outing, Lunar Womb. He played on Unida‘s unreleased masterpiece, joined Goatsnake for the 2004 Trampled Under Hoof EP, and released a solo record, TunnelVision Brilliance, in 2006, all the while making a name for himself as a recording engineer and producer for the likes of Orange Goblin, SunnO))), Whores of TijuanaThe Freeks and Sixty Watt Shaman – later also recording in his Sanctuary Studio in the desert with Karma to Burn, Black Math Horseman, Sonic Medusa, Dali’s Llama and Blaak Heat Shujaa, among many others. His vocal contribution to “Garden Sessions III” from Yawning Sons‘ 2009 debut, Ceremony to the Sunset, remains a high point of that album.

In 2013, he found chart success contributing bass to the single “From Can to Can’t” on the Sound City: Real to Reel soundtrack to Dave Grohl‘s Sound City documentary, and in November he made his debut with Sun and Sail Club on their first outing, Mannequin, adding his bass to the guitar of Bob Balch and the drums of (a different) Scott Reeder, both of Fu Manchu.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Scott Reeder

How did you come to do what you do?

It’s in my blood — all four of my Grandparents have been musicians. My parents played music together before I was even born… so it’s always been a big part of my life. I’ve had a few non-musical detours in my life, but I always seem to gravitate back to being in or around it.

Describe your first musical memory.

My Grandparents on my Mom’s side would have jazz jam sessions at their house a lot when I was very young. My Grandpa is still one of the best guitarists I’ve ever seen, but I would always be drawn to the bass amp, and I’d sit right in front of that amp for hours, feeling that thump, and hearing the walking bass lines weaving through the music. That guy’s name was Sid Fridkin — I was always amazed at how he knew the perfect “weird” notes to throw in.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

I would have to say jamming in the Across the River days, around 1985 and ’86, with Mario Lalli and Alfredo Hernandez. We were really just starting out, and loved playing, and began getting better and better at expressing ourselves — it was really exciting to start realizing that we could do anything we set our minds to! Our garage was insulated pretty well and we painted glow in the dark stars all over — we’d jam for hours, exploring every weird little idea that came up… Mario and I both had our future wives, Nana and Renee living there with us, too — it was a magical time. And after our friend Dave Travis introduced us to the generator and we’d played a few crazy parties outside, we discovered it was nice just to go out ourselves into the desert and just jam under the real stars. The best times for me were when we just went out with our very close friends… it was peaceful, and inspiring. Later on, it turned into big parties, and eventually just got out of control. Knives, guns, fires, police… but the early days were pretty fucking awesome.

When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?

I had an out-of-body experience when I was 16, when I was fully conscious, before I’d had any sort of mind-altering substance. I was playing trombone with the local college’s jazz band, sight-reading a really tough chart with the band, when I “popped out” — I was looking back at myself from a few feet away, and I could hear every note coming out perfectly, even though I wasn’t conscious whatsoever of reading the music. There was a complete calm, like the quiet of diving under water and not moving… and then I snapped back to struggling through the chart. It seemed perfectly natural when it happened, but when I was waiting afterward for my Mom to pick me up, I realized it was a little weird. I had no idea what had just happened, but I stumbled upon a book a few months later about OBE’s called The Astral Experience, and it documented people trying to reach the experience with LSD. And so that became my next journey at age 16, before I’d even tasted a beer or took a puff off a joint. To this day, that book is on a table in our bathroom for our guests to check out… That initial experience made me believe that our spirit is indeed separate from the body.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

I usually don’t have much to write about unless something is really eating at me. I’ve been in the studio singing a few times with tears streaming down my face, but then it gets transformed into something I can embrace — it’s like therapy, I guess. Recording some of them have been pretty painful, but it’s a huge catharsis to get it out, and it feels good when it resonates with a few people. As far as progression goes… I don’t think I’m going to have an epiphany someday on how to write a hit song, or anything. I’ve got all the tools I need to express myself — I suppose the songs will just slowly follow the course of my life over time. I’m not very prolific, but that’s fine — I don’t have a deal with a label breathing down my neck for “product.” I just trickle stuff out on iTunes or whatever… slow motion is fine for me. And I guess that if I only write when things are bugging me… then the fewer times I have to go through the process, the better!

How do you define success?

That’s a tricky one. There are small successes possible every day, striving to be the best you can be at everything you do, whether it be putting down a bass track or raking up some horse shit. Laughing with each other. Enjoying the simple pleasures. Life is in a constant state of flux — at the end, it won’t matter how much money you made, or how many things you acquired. I’ve lived among the rat race, with everyone stepping over each other, not thinking of any consequence to stabbing each other in the back — that’s not the life for me at all. I’ve tried to slow down my life, keeping it as simple as I can, for the most part. There have been some bumps in the road over the last couple of years, but it’s inspired me to focus on what’s important on a deeper level, I think, and I’m still searching. But I think the most important thing we can do, is to do our best to elevate each other.

What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?

Well… I guess this is supposed to be an ugly one. After my Mom passed away a couple of months ago, she was laid out on her bed. The coroner was running very late, so it was great to be able to take our time saying goodbyes. However, I was alone in the room about six hours in, and dark fluid started coming out of her mouth — I tried to quickly clean her face so that her husband and his kids and grandchildren and my brother wouldn’t have to see that, but it started streaming out faster than I could wipe it away, as I was desperately trying to keep everyone out of the room. That image will always haunt me. On the positive side, hopefully it helps me to process the reality of her death a little quicker. But, no rush…

Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.

Hmmm… That would be our future swimming pool with a guest cabana and a big patio for barbecues!

Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?

That would definitely be the next time I take my horse out for a ride. That’s probably the only time I’m really away from music, even though you get completely enmeshed into the rhythm of the horse’s gait. It’s like a meditation, becoming one with the horse — it clears my head and calms me. I should be doing it every day, but I get busy…

Sun and Sail Club, Mannequin (2013)

Scott Reeder’s website

Sun and Sail Club on Thee Facebooks

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Blaak Heat Shujaa, The Edge of an Era: Don’t Forget to Breathe

Posted in Reviews on April 5th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Since the release of their 2010 self-titled debut, Blaak Heat Shujaa have moved from Paris to Los Angeles — with a stop in New York City as well for a time — have honed their desert rocking chops on tours with Fatso Jetson and Yawning Man, have signed with Tee Pee Records, completed a documentary series about their recording sessions with the venerable Scott Reeder and have taken those sessions and split them into two releases: the late-2012 The Storm Generation EP and their sophomore full-length, The Edge of an Era — shooting videos and playing gigs all the while as well. With that much going on, it’s not much of a surprise that The Edge of an Era is a different beast than was the self-titled, but what is striking about the album is how cohesive it is. On first listen, it makes sense as to why the trio — guitarist/vocalist Thomas Bellier, bassist Antoine Morel-Vulliez and drummer Mike Amster – divided the output from the Reeder sessions. The Edge of an Era focuses is on a singular atmosphere that’s served well by its six component tracks; the material on The Storm Generation (review here) wasn’t lacking for quality, it just didn’t fit. And where the band probably could’ve forced the issue and included most of those songs here — a move that might’ve put the album’s runtime more in line with the 63-minute self-titled (review here) instead of the vinyl-friendly 41:27 the finished product clocks — The Edge of an Era is unquestionably a stronger whole for the structure of its parts, running social/political lyrical themes through organic tones with a marked flow from piece to piece that nonetheless shows development in the experimental side that showed itself on the prior outing. Fatso Jetson‘s Mario Lalli donates vocals and lyrics to the penultimate “Pelham Blue,” making that track an automatic standout and highlighting just how much influence Blaak Heat Shujaa has culled from the desert in which it now rests its collective head, and poet/tourmate Ron Whitehead, who contributed to The Storm Generation as well, launches the album with “Closing Time, Last Exit,” a rising-toward-clarity free-association spoken word in which gonzo, Jesus, Buddha, Hunter S. Thompson and other mythological figureheads are namechecked before we arrive at the starting point just under a minute later: “America is an illusion.”

A fun bit of knowledge to drop, rife with Baby Boomer shock value and wake-you-up-to-challenge-what-exactly exclamation (it seems a fruitless endeavor to rag on the gonzo types; that cat’s been out of the bag since well before I came along to call it self-indulgent), but more importantly, it sets up a good amount of the perspective from which The Edge of an Era is executed. The point of view, like the band, is young, but coherent, and met with fuzz not driven so much by a heavy psych wash of effects in Bellier‘s guitar, but by a dry-sand clarity that finds root in Morel-Vulliez‘s basslines while Amster‘s drumming holds the songs together allowing the other two players to wander over the course of longer jams like that emerging from “The Obscurantist Fiend (The Beast Pt. I),” the initial rush of which takes hold immediately following Whitehead‘s last pronouncement. Time and again throughout the record, Blaak Heat Shujaa prove adept at balancing stillness with movement instrumentally — Bellier‘s post-Cisneros vocal approach is suited to either, frankly, though in the faster parts he seems more inclined to let the guitar do the talking — and that begins with “The Obscurantist Fiend (The Beast Pt. I)” as a slowdown brings hypnotic repeating of a start-stop progression soon to serve as the foundation not just for Bellier’s verse, but the long instrumental stretch that follows. Amster and Morel-Vulliez make it work, the former with a kind of descending progression that winds up on the crash with each cycle as the latter works to gradually expand the base from which the guitars take flight. It is one of the record’s most melodically satisfying instrumental stretches that ensues, rising and cascading in tempo with a solo taking hold before arriving at starts and stops almost frenetic in their tension thanks to Amster‘s fills, double-kick and so on. At seven minutes, they launch into the next stage, bringing the groove to a head as Bellier and Morel-Vulliez align to ignite the melodic apex before sleepily jamming the way out of the song and directly into “Shadows (The Beast Pt. II)” via a sweet bassline worthy of the quieter moments of any Brant Bjork record you might want to name, the actual progression keeping the same starts and stops from the prior cut, but changing the context to something altogether more comforting.

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Blaak Heat Shujaa: More The Edge of an Era Details Revealed

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 21st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Following up on the recent unveiling the cover art for their forthcoming full-length label debut on Tee Pee Records, L.A. heavy psych rockers Blaak Heat Shujaa have announced even more details about The Edge of an Era. The PR wire a moment ago sent over the tracklisting and confirmed the album for an April 9 release.

Behold:

Los Angeles Space Psych Trio BLAAK HEAT SHUJAA to Release New Album “The Edge of an Era” April 9

“Heavy Mental” psych rock band BLAAK HEAT SHUJAA will release their sophomore LP The Edge of an Era, on April 9. The follow up to the Los Angeles trio’s critically acclaimed Tee Pee debut, The Storm Generation, The Edge of an Era sees the über-talented group’s enticing blend of genres combine to shape a sound unlike anything you’ve likely heard before; one that has been called “a dissonant symphony unveiling visions of great natural expanses”. Produced by desert session legend Scott Reeder (Sunn O))), The Obsessed) and mastered at Ventura, CA’s Golden Mastering (Primus, Sonic Youth, Calexico),The Edge of an Era boasts guest appearances by both Nobel Prize-nominated gonzo poet Ron Whitehead and desert rock pioneer Mario Lalli (Yawning Man, Fatso Jetson) adding even more color to BLAAK HEAT’s signature psych.

BLAAK HEAT SHUJAA’s transcendental tension between its heavy rock roots and an organic inclination to drift towards psychedelia pays homage to the vast collection of mind-expanding sounds the trio grew up on: neo-psychedelia, surf rock, spaghetti westerns, Middle Eastern scales and even Far Eastern melodies! Striking, imaginative cover art courtesy of Paris-based Arrache toi un oeil! collective (Brian Jonestown Massacre, TV on the Radio, Acid Mothers Temple) and inspired by the album title adds to the kaleidoscopic lean of the record from the band who boasts a cinematic sound that has been called “Heavy Spaghedelia” and “Kyussian”, featuring “psychedelic, meditative, trance-inducing” and “spacey atmospheres”. Prepare to take a windswept magic carpet ride over vast plains of astral soundtrack psychedelia!!

Track listing:

1.) Closing Time, Last Exit (0:57)
2.) The Obscurantist Fiend (The Beast Part I) (10:21)
3.) Shadows (The Beast Part II) (8:11)
4.) Society of Barricades (8:20)
5.) Pelham Blue (5:19)
6.) Land of the Freaks, Home of the Brave (8:22)

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Wino Wednesday: Wino and Scott Reeder Guest on Sixty Watt Shaman’s “All Things Come to Pass”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 13th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Maryland’s Sixty Watt Shaman released their third album, Reason to Live, in 2002. Hard to believe it’s been that long, but I guess it has. I remember getting the album from Spitfire Records at the time and thinking it was pretty damn heavy, and sure enough, the first impression has lasted for a decade-plus, even if the band hasn’t. Sixty Watt Shaman broke up after Reason to Live, with drummer “Minnesota” Pete Campbell joining forces with The Mighty Nimbus and playing with Victor Griffin in Place of Skulls (he also features in Griffin‘s new outfit, In~Graved) and bassist Rev. Jim Forrester moving on to a variety of projects, including the current Serpents of Secrecy, whose details remain — you guessed it — a mystery.

They reunited in the later part of the last decade with their final lineup of ForresterCampbell, guitarist Joe Selby and guitarist/vocalist Daniel Kerzwick, and have done shows here and there, mostly locally, but Reason to Live remains Sixty Watt Shaman‘s last studio outing to date, and on the album, the 12-minute “All Things Come to Pass” serves all-too-fittingly as a closer. The song boasts a raging, burly jam, with Kerzwick repeating the title line ad infinitum, and that jam has two guests: Scott “Wino” Weinrich on guitar and Scott Reeder on bass.

If you have to have two names on a song, those are ones to have. Wino and Reeder, both former members of The Obsessed, leave a stamp on the extended cut to the point that after the big rock finish more than eight minutes in Kerzwick, calls them each out by name and says thanks. The impression given is that the jam was put to tape live with everyone in the studio at the same time, and while I don’t know if those were the actual circumstances of the recording, it sounds natural enough and it’s a killer groove, so I’m not about to complain.

“All Things Come to Pass” doesn’t use the full 12 minutes. There’s an acoustic hidden track afterwards, but as that’s got a cool vibe and this clip had the better sound quality of the ones I could find, we get the finish of Reason to Live in its entirety.

Hope you’ve had a great Wino Wednesday:

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Visual Evidence: Blaak Heat Shujaa Reveal CD/LP Covers for The Edge of an Era

Posted in Visual Evidence on February 11th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Currently based in L.A., psychedelic desert rockers Blaak Heat Shujaa will make their full-length debut on Tee Pee Records with The Edge of an Era on April 9. Today I have the pleasure of hosting for your check-it-outs the cover art by the Paris-based Arrache toi un oeil! collective. Below, artist Emy Rojas give some background on the inspiration for the pieces. The Edge of an Era was produced by none other than Scott “Yes that Scott Reeder” Reeder and follows on the heels of BHSTee Pee debut EP, The Storm Generation (review here).

According to guitarist/vocalist Thomas Bellier, The Edge of an Era will have two separate covers — one for the digipak CD release and one for the vinyl, both courtesy of Rojas, who offered the following:

“Arrache toi un oeil! made many silk screened gig posters in Paris, that’s how Thomas from Blaak Heat Shujaa discovered my work and then asked me to work on the cover of the album. The title “The edge of an era” inspired me a lot, something psychedelic, mystical, cosmic that flies away…and, at some point, ends but then announces something new. So I tried to have an image of this idea which also matched the style of the band. When I draw a cover, I always listen to the band to get closer to its universe, that’s very important for me.”

Here is the artwork in hi-resolution. Please click either image to enlarge.

Digipak CD

Vinyl

The Edge of an Era is due out April 9. Stay tuned for more on the album ahead of the release.

Blaak Heat Shujaa on Thee Facebooks

Tee Pee Records website

Arrache toi un oeil website

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Frydee Scott Reeder

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 2nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

So I’m watching this Scott Reeder video for the song “Thanks,” when all of a sudden, he’s rocking out on the roof of a trailer, and I think to myself, gee, I wonder if that’s the same trailer where Goatsnake took those press shots for Trampled Under Hoof when he was in the band. The pictures of Pete Stahl and Greg Anderson and Reeder, some are with goats, but some they’re just sitting on lawn furniture outside of a trailer, and yeah, I think it is the same spot. Check it out:

If you go to 1:46 in the video, you can see those wicker chairs from the picture above and that swing, and the angle is different, but that stuff is pretty distinct. To answer your next question, yes, this is what I do on a Friday night. Sorry ladies, I’m taken.

Even putting aside the continuity of outdoor furniture, I dig the song. “Thanks” is apparently an outtake from Reeder‘s lone solo effort to date, TunnelVision Brilliance. The album came out in 2006, and was cool if a little disjointed — as you’d have to expect it to be with songs written over the course of a decade and a half. I had hoped Reeder would follow it up with a new collection, but nothing’s surfaced since, though he’s made a stamp as producer for Dali’s Llama, Blaak Heat Shujaa, Black Math Horseman and Whores of Tijuana, among others, leaving a mark on desert heavy one way or another.

Long week, but god damn it, it felt good to finally get that Arthur Seay interview posted, and everyone was awesome about the whole four-years thing, and that was hugely appreciated on my end. Next week I’ve got a Q&A with Low Man slated to go up, and reviews of GurT, Arbouretum, Propane Propane and others, so there’s plenty worth staying tuned for, even if my brain is too tired to remember the rest of it. Which apparently it is. You’re just gonna have to trust me on this one.

Sunday, The Patient Mrs. and I are driving back north to Massachusetts to take another look at one of the houses we saw the day after that Gozu show last weekend. There are a mountain’s worth of steps between this and making an offer, having the offer accepted, closing, moving, etc., but it’s exciting to even have this stuff in motion. I’ve wanted to move for a while, even if it means I’ll need to pack up all my CDs.

Plenty of time before I get there, and in the meantime, I’m gonna go crash out as I think I exhausted the last bit of mental energy making that connection between the Reeder video and the Goatsnake pic. If you’re around, there’s good stuff doing on the forum that’s worth checking out, and not for nothing, but I was listening to The Obelisk Radio last night and I heard Truckfighters into EyeHateGod into Orange Goblin and today I heard Steve Von Till‘s “Hallowed Ground” right into The Awesome Machine‘s “Scars.” It was fucking awesome. If you’ve been digging that, or anything else around here, thanks. Really. Thank you.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend. As always, I’ll see you back here Monday for more fuzz worship and run-on indulgences.

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Dali’s Llama Post in-Studio Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 22nd, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster

Palm Springs desert rockers Dali’s Llama have put up a new video of them recording at perennial badass Scott Reeder‘s studio, The Sanctuary. Their new album is reportedly due in September. The jury is still out on whether or not it will feature any songs about King Platypus, but here’s the clip:

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Big Hitter, the Dali’s Llama

Posted in Reviews on March 13th, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster

I'll cast a shadow...

Okay. Fact is this: There was just about no way I was going to approach this album with anything even closely resembling objectivity after a first listen confirmed the track “King Platypus” was indeed about what the title advertised. So Dali’s Llama is a desert rock trio from Palm Springs produced by Scott Reeder (The Obsessed, Kyuss, Goatsnake, etc.) who are actually singing about protecting the habitat of wild platipi? “Leave king platypus alone.” Fuckin’ sold — what else ya got?

As the back cover of Dali’s Llama‘s Full on Dunes (Dali’s Llama Records), shown right, demonstrates, the Here lies the most unpretensious stoner rock back album cover ever.band’s second album is almost entirely free of pretense. Zach and Erica Huskey (guitar/vocals and bass, respectively) and Jeff Howe (drums) rock with a “What you see is what you get” mentality, setting an expectation for high-end desert/stoner grooves and making good across the nine tracks that comprise the offering. There are elements of post-punk, but the simplicity of the band’s driving, groove-centric scope is the factor that carries the all-endearing approach across so well.

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