Acid King Interview with Lori S.: Coming Down from Outer Space

acid king 1 (Photo by Raymond Ahner)

It’s been 10 years since Acid King put out a record. I could but frankly don’t want to run down a list of things that have come to pass since their third full-length, III, was issued, but suffice it to say, a decade’s worth of shit. The advent of social media. There. That’s one. Anyone knowing what the words “heavy” and “rock” mean when placed in succession. That’s another.

That last one is particularly important when it comes to understanding the band’s motivation for finally releasing a new album — that being Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere (review here), which came out earlier this year as their first and hopefully not last for Svart Records — since as guitarist/vocalist Lori S. (Obelisk Questionnaire here) points out, the climate into which the LP was arriving was definitely a factor. The times have simply changed, and whatever else one might say about it — I’ve said plenty and I’m sure I’ll say more before 2015 is out — Acid King‘s fourth hit into much different circumstances than did the San Francisco trio’s third in 2005.

Of course, that would matter way, way less if the album sucked, but not only does Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere mark a studio return from Acid King, who’ve toured Europe and played sporadic US shows all the while, but it’s a triumphant return at that. Comprised of their most expansive material to-date, it finds the trio of Lori, bassist Mark Lamb and drummer Joey Osbourne oozing their way into a meld of heavy psychedelics and their well-established penchant for riff rock. Produced initially by Toshi Kasai and then by Billy Anderson, who also helmed their three prior offerings, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere is an hour-plus motorcycle ride through the cosmos and yeah the cosmos is a vacuum and there’s no way you’d be able to breathe but whatever man just go with it because it’s awesome. It’s a record that nods so righteously you forget it’s been a decade.

Maybe Acid King missed a beat going from the last album to this one, but it was only so they could jump ahead an entire measure.

They’ve been more active in terms of shows as well. In August, they took part in the North West Hesh Fest, and they’re due to come to the Eastern Seaboard on their biggest round of US touring since 2006. The dates:

October 16 San Diego, CA Brick By Brick
October 17 Los Angeles, CA Complex
October 18 Tucson, AZ SW Terrorfest (Club Congress)
October 19 Albuquerque, NM Sister
October 21 Austin, TX Red 7
October 22 New Orleans, LA Siberia
October 23 Atlanta, GA Drunken Unicorn
October 24 Raleigh, NC Kings
October 25 New York, NY Saint Vitus
October 26 Boston, MA Middle East
October 27 Philadelphia, PA Kung Fu Necktie
October 28 Cleveland, OH Now That’s Class
October 29 Chicago, IL Reggie’s
October 30 St. Louis, MO Firebird
October 31 Kansas City, MO Riot Room
November 1 Denver, CO Hi Dive

That’s no small run, especially considering how long it’s been, and as Lori explains in the interview that follows, the stakes are pretty high. I won’t spoil it. Last time she was interviewed here, it was a 2009 tribute to mark the 10th anniversary of their 1999 sophomore outing, Busse Woods, so there’s was plenty to talk about for the new album and tour, including the studio shift that brought them back to working with Anderson, their motivation for doing a record at all after so long, what beer she’s most looking forward to sampling on the road and much more.

Complete Q&A follows after the jump. Please enjoy:

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When did you decide to go back into the studio and how was that decision made?

We had a handful of songs. They were kind of ready but not really ready. I felt like the timing was right, I felt like it’s been a long time. This music was not popular when this band first started. All of a sudden it was like, a whole different state out there than when we first started this band. I thought to myself, oh we better seize the moment now because it might not be around forever. I really just wanted to get this done. We’ve been fucking around for way too long. I really wanted to get it done. I booked studio time, and I was like, “we’re doing it.” Once I booked the studio time and made preparations, it put a little pressure on us to get it together and get it finished.

What do you think led to that different climate? You’re absolutely right. When you guys started, it wasn’t popular. Now it’s a thing.

Yeah, it’s pretty funny. I think social media. The changing of the times and technology, to be honest. When we first started we were sending out letters and cassetteacid king middle of nowhere center of everywhere tapes and CDs, right? You were reading — you had to go to the store and buy a magazine for review. You had to make that effort to get something. Now it’s just right there in your face, it’s so easy. Much easier and all over the place with the Genius tab, “hey if you like Sleep you’ll like Acid King.” Everything is just out there now, so much more than it ever, ever was. I believe that is one of the reasons that underground music in general became more popular than it did. People that might not have even known to buy, whatever, magazine or fanzine that was out there back in the early ‘90s. For those people that went to the record store and sought out that stuff. They don’t have to anymore. It’s, to me, a lot easier and accessible and around a lot more people than the 20 that there were back in the day. All 10 of us (laughs).

What is the oldest song on the album?

I want to say probably “Red River.” No, that’s not true. The title-track, ” Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere.” That riff and most of that song was around for a long time. It just never had lyrics. Even though it was that riff and the sequence was around for a long time, it was one of the last songs to be finished for the record. (Laughs) It was a hard one. It did not follow the normal Acid King/Lori songwriting pattern. It threw me off. I was trying not to repeat everything I’ve done in the past and therefore, I didn’t know what to do. I was like, “I don’t know.”

What is the normal, Lori/Acid King songwriting pattern?

Normally it always has a guitar intro, then the band comes in and we play a riff, then lyrics, then some guitar lead or more lyrics and then maybe a bridge. I have a way, just like most every band has a way that you naturally start writing a song. I was trying to break that pattern. Let’s have one where I don’t start, or something like that. That’s a typical Acid King pattern.

So “Middle of Nowhere” took longer for not fitting into that.

Yeah, it was just a weirder song that I didn’t – yeah. I wasn’t sure how to sing on it, wasn’t sure what the melody was. I didn’t know how to make the vocals work. Then all of a sudden it came to me while I was sitting in the car.

And how did it wind up the title-track?

How did that happen? I don’t know if I know. I think I just started thinking about the center of everywhere. I was thinking I didn’t really want to name it — to be a part of the record, but it was so I had to. Yeah, I don’t know. I think when I get a phrase in my head and I start to write a song with that particular phrase or word and I write a whole song around that — that’s how it ended up. It wasn’t on purpose. I think it just came to me and was an organic kind of thing. Well, I have it. This is it.

Did you always know that if you did another record you’d do it with Billy?

No. Matter of fact, it wasn’t originally with Billy. I wanted something new. I wanted a new label, new engineer. I didn’t want to do anything — I wanted to do something different. We originally hired Toshi Kasai, who started off recording us. We recorded some of “Red River” and “Outer Space” with him. Those are on the record, he did the recording and then we – part of it was, we weren’t really ready for all the songs. We weren’t really happy with the way we recorded. It wasn’t really him, so when it came to wanting to finish the record I really missed my collaboration with Billy. I don’t know how to word it without making it seem like Toshi wasn’t good enough, because it’s not like he wasn’t, he’s awesome.

But when you have a relationship with a producer who you’ve recorded so many times and they just know what you like. We have such a history with Billy. But, like with anything else when you get comfortable just like when you have a new acid-king-tourgirlfriend. First you’re going out and you’re all proper and you’re not farting, then all of a sudden you’re married and you’re peeing with the door open. You get too comfortable, maybe don’t treat each other the way you should — so, because of the history with Billy we thought it might be nice to have someone else. Some fresh ideas. But the thing is, the difference is for us, and I think if we all lived together closer…

I’m telling the long version because I feel like I just want to make sure it doesn’t come out that Toshi is not good. The thing is, he lives in L.A. and we don’t really know him that well and so I think if we had the relationship we have with Billy where we recorded a bunch of times and knew each other more, it probably would be awesome. But I need more of a collaboration than just an engineer. I need someone that is, “Okay, what else do we do with this part to make it better?” Billy has got a lot of ideas of let’s do this or that. He doesn’t need to be told, he’s a good collaborator. Where with Toshi it was more up to me to be like, “Now I want you to do this or that.” I like to have collaboration. I like to have someone else have ideas too. I’m not like a dictator in the studio.

So when it came to finishing the record, I was like, “Billy! Hi! Don’t hate me for not originally hiring you but now I want you back!” (Laughs) Everybody was cool, he was totally stoked and Toshi was totally cool. Everyone, was all good. That’s the story of how that all happened.

How long was that process, front to back?

That was like another year. We recorded some songs in January and then we recorded some songs – that probably took a whole other year. Six to eight months, getting the rest of the songs. Billy lives in Portland now, flying to San Francisco, etc. But it was awesome.

So you’re in the studio with Toshi and you’ve got these recordings, how long between you have a sense of something is not working like it should or could be working better — how long between you getting that feeling and you calling Billy?

I would say when we were done with the amount of time we had recording and it came to, “Okay, I want to redo these songs, I’m not happy with what they are.” I really started feeling at that point, almost immediately, I think I need more help. I think I need my Billy. It was pretty quick after that when I realized that I missed recording with him.

You put the record out, so I’m guessing you feel good about it. How do you feel about the end result of that switch?

Oh I love it! So happy. I like the songs that Toshi did too, Toshi recorded them but Billy ended up — we recorded more and Billy finished and mixed everything. So where was a collaboration on both, but I’m super-happy with the way it came out. It’s probably my favorite record, for sure. When you haven’t put a record out for 10 years you’re just thinking in your mind of what the reviews will be like, like, “This is what they’ve done after 10 years?” There’s all kinds of — not that I give a shit about what anybody thinks, but you know, still. It’s in the back of your mind. But I was really happy with the record and I of course was very happy because the most part it’s gotten really good reviews, everyone seems to like it. Of course that makes you happy.

You can say you don’t give a shit about what other people think all you want, but if you read a bunch of shitty reviews about your record it certainly doesn’t make you feel good. I know because I’ve had shitty reviews.

How do you feel about III, 10 years later?

I like some of the songs on III. Some of the songs sound a little antiquated to me. I haven’t listened to it for a long time (laughs).acid king 2

Not that you should be sitting around listening to your own records, but you know —

I think I need to call in the Acid King cover band to play some of those songs for me, I need to relearn them. Like when KISS had to hire the other KISS to teach them their own songs. I’d have to relearn. I think if I listen — there’s still some of those songs we play that people like. The greatest hits or whatever. I think that this record definitely sounds more, I don’t know, just a little bit – what’s the word – mature? [laughs] Is that a proper word? I don’t know. A little bit more together. Better produced, I don’t know.

I can’t think of the proper word I want to say, but I definitely think these songs are at least a little better. Who knows? I have to re-listen to it now because I know people like that. I usually don’t like anything I record to be honest with you. This was the first one I’ve done where I was like, “Wow, I really like this record.” There’s always something I don’t like, or we don’t have enough time or we ran out of money in the studio and I’ve got to live with what I have. It’s hard to say, I think I was happy with III back in the day. But I also think I might have had some filler in there, just to get the record out.

Ten years from now are you going to be like, “I don’t know, Middle of Nowhere…?”

Totally! You can just copy and paste this interview for the next one in 10 years (laughs). You’re always worried your next record is never going to be as good as your last. I mean, it’s always hard to think — I try not to think of it that way, I always try to think, what can I do a little bit different? Acid King is Acid King, just like The Ramones or AC/DC — we’re never going to be anything different. There might be subtle changes, different little things here and there but it is what it is.

What were some of the changes you wanted to do this time?

Maybe add more atmosphere, we had a Leslie organ, MOOG in there. A little more atmospheric. I’m kind of done with “let’s just be loud and heavy” and “I’m gonna hold this note for five minutes.” I don’t want to do that anymore. That was really cool 20 years ago and I just, it’s not cool anymore for me. I don’t get satisfaction out of doing that anymore, which I did in the past. I’ve evolved from that. I’m just trying to write different songs that I can implement other instruments that isn’t just feedback and is, “hi, we’re heavy and loud.”

I think it’s Acid King’s most atmospheric record. The sense of space in the tracks is really palpable. Of course it’s big and loud, but it spreads wide too.

Yeah, it’s a little more floaty.

How has the response been live? I know you did the North West Hesh Fest. How was that?

It was good. We have a lot of newer fans that we haven’t seen for a long time. We probably played Portland more than anywhere else in the US in the past year. It’s interesting because we haven’t toured the US in so long, we don’t really know what the fanbase is in the US. We’ve never really had that many.

We played in San Francisco and it was sold out, which is every weird. that was not the way it used to be. We were like, “who are these people?” (Laughs) I don’t know who this crowd is. It was a surprise, honestly. We were totally surprised that we could sell out a show. It was a 500-people show, not like a 150 show. It was like, “oh, alright!” But I can’t say that it’s going to be that way everywhere.

You hear a lot about how the European climate is different from the US climate. Do you have any sort of expectations for going out on a full-US tour?

No. I’ve been looking at the Facebook event pages to see who’s RSVP’dacid king 3 and whatnot, so I kind of have a better sense now, and I kind of already knew. Albuquerque will probably be a dud, San Diego. They always were. I’m curious. I don’t have any expectations. I’m curious what it’s going to be like since it’s been like, 10 years since we’ve toured and things have changed. I’m interested to see what kind of fanbase we have. I don’t have any expectations. We’re going to do it and see what it’s like, if it’s terrible then we’ll never do it again. Simple as that. We’ll just keep going to Europe.

Good to know there’s nothing riding on the tour then. Any specific beer you’re looking forward to trying on the road?

Well, yes, as a matter of fact someone in Chicago is making a beer for me. It’s this guy who contacted me. And obviously I love beer. He’s like, “I want to make you a beer for your Chicago show. I’m a brewmaster.” And I guess he’s friends with the club there, so he’s making me a beer. I’m looking forward to having that. It’s going to be called Laser Head Light (laughs). It’s a Czech pilsner. Yeah, so, I’m looking forward to having my first Acid King beer.

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