采访:Psychic Ills Interview

By , 2012年 10月 9日


Some of New York’s finest and furthest out sound explorers are bringing their psychedelic inversions to China this November. PSYCHIC ILLS have been burnishing their particular brand of Bushwick Babel for nigh on a decade, most recently teaming up with Brooklyn tastemakers Sacred Bones to release 2011 LP Hazed Dream. An ostensible departure from their previous long-form free jams — captured on so many spooled miles of practice room tape — Hazed Dream is all about “putting some words to some chords”, “keeping it simple” and “Shaking off that NY brain boil.”

Well, I’m not sure if Beijing is any less of a brain boiler, but I’m certainly psyched! I asked Ills guitarist Tres Warren and bassist Elizabeth Hart a few questions about the core and evolution of their sound, and what they’re expecting to encounter as they face this next frontier. Read on and see them on tour with Chui Wan this November (tour dates here).

pangbianr: “Psychedelic Rock” has concrete Asian influences, both in terms of instrumentation and mystical philosophy. But it’s also a musical style with a strong alt-Americana identity. What is your interpretation of “psych”, as a genre or a mode of writing and thinking about music?

Tres Warren: Yeah, you’re right, elements of it come from a lot of different places; Asia, Europe, America and so on… I like a lot of music from all over—some that would be considered ‘psychedelic’ and a lot that wouldn’t be. I guess we don’t really approach making music with a specific genre in mind, we just sort of follow wherever the song or sounds are going. You’re probably also right about some of the Asian influences being about ‘instrumentation and mystic philosophy’. I’d also point out the differences in musical languages and approaches between east and west, and the attraction to the unfamiliar that probably occurs in both directions. Since we’re talking about it, I’m hoping to track down a Hulusi (Chinese drone flute) while I’m there.

pbr: In earlier Psychic Ills recordings you explore a wide range of styles, reflecting a pretty representative cross-section of mid-’00s “New Weird America” underground music: psych, drone, free rock, etc. What were your guidelines or restrictions for writing and recording when you first started out? Where did you practice? Were you aiming to put out records, practicing for live shows, or just jamming as an end in itself?

Elizabeth Hart: We jammed a lot in the beginning, and oftentimes would see where that took us. If we felt like we were on to something, we would then sort of mold the jam into a song. We often recorded the jams onto a tape to listen back to, as some of them went on for quite a long time and if we hadn’t recorded it, we most likely would have forgotten what we were playing. Tres lived in this small house (kind of like a garage) behind a bigger house, that is where we rehearsed. It was in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

pbr: Tres – in your side projects Compound Eye and Messages, you seem to ignore your guitar and focus on a wide range of other instruments, from analog synths to more obscure curios, like the shruti box and ukelin. Can you talk more about the different tools you use and how they affect your songwriting process, both in your other projects and in Psychic Ills?

TW: In a real basic sense, I guess Psychic Ills is a rock band, even though at times I was maybe trying to convince myself that it wasn’t—ha! But I’ve been playing guitar since I was a teenager and that’s how I write songs a lot of the time. At the same time, I like to explore other approaches just as much, and in those situations I do that. You can play rhythms, melodies or drones on any instrument, so I think about it that way. A lot of it also has to do with what the other people are bringing to it, and in the examples that you mentioned, both of those guys (Drew McDowall and Taketo Shimada) have strong musical ideas/identities as well.

pbr: One reviewer characterizes your most recent LP, Hazed Dream, as “a record that fits more precisely into its time and place” than your previous material. Do you feel that adhering to more standard song structures gives the record a greater sense of specificity or temporal fixity than some of your more amorphous recordings? Was this your goal?

EH: Hazed Dream is probably a little more accessible than some of the recent previous output, but writing more structured songs was just sort of the natural next step for us, after coming out of a phase where we were experimenting with different instruments and sounds and forming the songs from improvisation mostly.

pbr: I have to admit that, from over here (i.e., having only indirectly mediated knowledge of what’s going on in NY), Hazed Dream does in fact sound like a “Brooklyn 2011” record – more specifically, a Sacred Bones 2011 record. Amen Dunes played here at the end of last year and I feel there is some overlap, if not necessarily aesthetically then at least moving from stream-of-consciousness drone and improv elements towards a more stripped down, song-based approach. Is this impression off-base? Is there a certain community in Brooklyn today that you draw from, or are you, as songwriters, more isolated in your own trajectory?

EH: I think we are influenced by a lot of things; film, art, music, but not directly from Brooklyn bands I wouldn’t say. We are friends with a lot of other musicians here, so there is community in that sense. I’m a fan of pretty much all the bands on the Sacred Bones roster. They put out a lot of different types of music that can appeal to a lot of different tastes which I think is really cool. Amen Dunes is great, we’ve known Damon for a while.

pbr: China isn’t really on the radar as a place to tour for most US bands. What are your expectations for your upcoming tour, if any? Are you familiar with any music coming out of China today?

EH: I don’t have any expectations, just so excited to explore a new country and culture, meet new people that play music. We’re really psyched to tour with Chui Wan! I was able to catch Carsick Cars when they played at Cakeshop in New York last spring I think it was… they were awesome!

TW: I’m looking forward to seeing the country, seeing some bands, playing music and meeting some people interested in music.

pbr: Beijing (and China in general) presents a unique challenge for aspiring rock and experimental bands. On one hand, the barrier to entering the music scene here is very low, as you can easily find shows, network with musicians, labels, and bloggers, and record & distribute your music online. On the other hand, the bar is also lower here and it’s much harder to get a leg up to success anywhere outside of China. Coming from arguably the most hyper-competitive and saturated music scene on the planet, what advice would you give to a Chinese musician in terms of honing his/her craft and effectively distributing their music beyond their local echo chamber?

TW: I’m sure its changing rapidly over there, but a positive thing about some of the things that you’ve mentioned is that a lot of the most honest exploration can happen in places that aren’t, as you put it, the most ‘hyper-competitive and saturated.’ I don’t really have any advice except to say to keep doing it as long as you feel like there is more musical terrain in you to explore and you like doing it. And if you want to put a record out and no one is interested, save some money and put it out yourself or with your friends. A lot of the best music has come out that way.

Psychic Ills kicks off their 9-city China tour with Chui Wan on Friday, November 16 at Yugong Yishan. Find the full tour schedule and more Ills media below:

Psychic Ills China Tour 2012:

11/16: Beijing, Yugong Yishan
11/17: Suzhou, WAVE
11/18: Hangzhou, 9 Club
11/20: Kunshan, Whales Bar
11/21: Shanghai, Yuyintang
11/22: Wuhan, VOX
11/23: Guangzhou, Star Department
11/24: Hong Kong, Love Da Cafe
11/25: Macau, Live Music Alliance

作为来自纽约地下阵营里,历经磨练的音乐探索者之一的Psychic Ills,将于 11月份,带着他们的迷幻实验摇滚来到中国。Psychic Ills十年里一直在探索自己独树一帜的布鲁克林噪声。他们跟Sacred Bones厂牌在2011年合作发行了专辑《Hazed Dream》。放下他们过去熟稔自由即兴,走向歌曲结构之路。《Hazed Dream》就是 “和弦上的只言片语”, “”保持极简” 和 “让头脑在穿过纽约头脑风暴后依旧清醒”。

我不确定北京的“头脑风暴”要比纽约少多少,无论如何,我自己很兴奋!我问了Psychic Ills的吉他手Tres Warren和贝斯手Elizabeth Hart一些问题关于他们音乐的核心问题,还有他们第一次来中国的期望。他们都如下做出了一一解答,同时请试听他们的音乐,如果有机会的话,欢迎前来看他们跟吹万乐队的中国巡演。

采访者:Josh Feola
中文编译:Lulu Chow


Tres Warren: 恩,你说的没错,“迷幻“的因子是来自世界各地的:亚洲,欧洲,美国等等… 我喜欢来自世界各地的音乐,有的可以说是”psych“,有的就不是。我觉得我们做音乐的目的是和风格本身没有关系的,我们只跟随着歌声和声音所带给我们的灵感,顺其自然。没错,器乐和器乐里所渗透的神秘哲学,也是一个很大的影响。我要说,东西方之间截然不同的音乐语言和谱曲方式,也整因为这种差异,我们互相吸引。说到这,我希望这次在中国的时候能找一个葫芦丝。

旁边儿:在Psychic Ills最早的录音中,你们探索广泛风格,当时差不多正直“新怪美国“风在地下圈蓬勃的时期:迷幻,长音,自由摇滚,等等。乐队在开始的时候,在创作上,有什么统一方法,又遇到了哪些困难?在哪里排练?当时最想做的是什么,是找机会发行唱片,还是集中精力排现场演出,或仅仅满足于自由自在的即兴瞎玩?

Elizabeth Hart: 最早我们就是即兴瞎玩,然后看看能走到哪里。如果有一个我们都觉得有意思的动机,我们就集中精力把这个动机变成一首歌。我们经常用磁带机把我们的排练录下来,反复听。有的排练间隔时间特别长,不录下来的话会很快忘掉。Tres住在一个大房子后面的小房子里,就像一个车库。我们就在那里排练,在纽约布鲁克林,布什克(Bushwick)。

旁边儿:Tres- 你除了Psychic Ills还有其他音乐计划:Compound EyeMessages,这两个计划中你好像不用吉他,而是用模拟合成器和比较罕见的乐器,例如shruti boxukelin。请阐述一下你用的乐器,怎样用这些的乐器来表达你的音乐?

TW: 基本上,可以说Psychic Ills是一个摇滚乐队,即使我有时候试图说服它不是摇滚-哈!反正我青少年开始弹吉他,所以当然大部分我写的歌就是这样,偏摇滚一点。同时我也很喜欢探索其它风格,所以在其他乐队里我可以更多地选择用各种的乐器弹节奏、旋律、长音。而且我觉得跟各种不同风格的艺术家合作也是很重要。你提到的那俩乐队是跟这两个人合作:Drew McDowall和Taketo Shimada。他们在做音乐上也非常有想法。

旁边儿:Pitchfork 说你们的新专辑《Hazed Dream》是一张 应了”天时地利人和“的专辑, 你觉得是因为你们这次坚持一个更严格的歌曲结构,使得《Hazed Dream》更有生逢其时的感觉吗?这是你们的目标吗?

EH: 《Hazed Dream》应该是比我们更早的专辑更容易被接受,我们在尝试了不同乐器,排演了大量的实验即兴的段落之后,谱写更有结构的歌也自然是我们下一步的方向。

旁边儿:需要承认,因为在我这儿,在北京,没有办法直接感知纽约现在的地下音乐圈,就我自己的感觉,《Hazed Dream》,没错,听着就是一个2011年布鲁克林音乐圈的感觉——更具体,听起来就是一个Sacred Bones 2011年的专辑。Amen Dunes去年来中国巡演,我觉得你们跟他可能有点交集,不是说音乐风格,而是你们都是不约而同地,从意识流式长音和自由即兴转变到更歌曲的方式。我的判断没错吧?还有一个问题,在这个环境中的境遇反观你们自己,你们是在布鲁克林地下音乐圈/小社区一部分,还是比较孤立的音乐家?

EH: 有很多东西影响我们:电影,艺术,音乐,但是我不会说我们是受了被形式化的”布鲁克林乐队“这个单一风格的影响。我们在这边有好多的朋友们和音乐家,所以也可以说有音乐小社区的感觉。而且我喜欢大概所有Sacred Bones的乐队。他们发行不同风格的音乐,吸引很多口味不同的音乐,觉得他们很酷。也很喜欢Amen Dunes,我们和Damon是老朋友。


EH: 我没有期望,只是很兴奋探索新国家和文化,认识新音乐家。我们也很兴奋跟吹万乐队一起巡演!我看过Carsick Cars上次在纽约Cakeshop的演出,应该是去年春天… 他们很棒!

TW: 我期待看到中国的一切,期待看到更多的中国乐队,认识更多关注音乐的朋友们。


TW: 我敢肯定,消极的部分很快就会改变。这种缺乏竞争力的状态,也是最诚实最有生命力的土壤。我没什么忠告,只想说,如果你喜欢做音乐,还想继续探索下去,那就继续吧。如果你要发行一张专辑,但是没有厂牌要发,就省钱自己发或找朋友一起发行。有很多特别好的音乐是这样推出来的。

Psychic Ills跟吹万乐队的中国巡演11月16日在北京愚公移山拉开帷幕。后面有全部巡演安排和更多Psychc Ills的资料:

Psychic Ills 2012中国巡演:

11/16: 北京 , 愚公移山
11/17: 苏州, WAVE
11/18: 杭州, 酒球会
11/20: 昆山, 威尔斯洛克吧
11/21: 上海, 育音堂
11/22: 武汉, VOX
11/23: 广州, Star Department
11/24: 香港, Love Da Cafe
11/25: 澳门, 现场音乐协会

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