From Aural Innovations #22 (January 2003)
Church Of Hed - s/t
(Eternity's Jest Records 2002, EJ0024)
Quarkspace... the Starbridge Freaks... have slowed their pace considerably due to the various life factors that distract people. But drummer and keyboard player Paul Williams never stops making music and Church Of Hed is the mostly solo project that is his focus these days. More purely electronic than Quarkspace, the music does nonetheless include clear traces of the Quarkspace sound, which makes sense given that Paul is the one behind the loops that were such an integral part of the later day Quarkspace sound.
The set opens with the revealing titled "The Lone Freak". "Axiom One" is a cool tune that consists of low drones, bubbling alien space sounds, and robotic patterns that make for an interesting combination of the cosmic and quirky elements. Like Kraftwerk jamming to the Forbidden Planet soundtrack. "Rock & Roll Song" would be very much at home on Quarkspace's Drop CD, probably due to the similar styled female vocals from guest Lynette Shelly of The Red Masque. It's got a very dark and slow moving intensity to it but is surrounded by swarming freaky electronics. The title track is one of my favorites being kind of a prog rock song augmented by space electronics. "Free Jim Brown" features classic Quarkspace synth patterns. But there's lots happening. Paul excels at combining disparate keyboard and synth sounds into a varied yet harmonic whole, which is very much a hallmark of the entire album.
Other highlights include "Cathedral Ice Revival" and "Blue Freaky", two more tracks with trademark Quarkspace synth patterns. In fact, the keyboard melody on "Blue Freaky" kind of reminds me of an old FM song (remember them?!). "Requiem Two" is another standout track with cool swirling alien elements. It's wild how there's this slow somber keyboard melody surrounded by UFO chaos, yet it all gels so well. And "Alpha Century Leisuretime" is the one long track at just over 9 minutes. It opens with a bouncy pleasant keyboard melody surrounded by heavenly atmospherics. But soon the main section kicks in which is a blend of cosmic space sounds and textures, light melodic bits, and syncopated keyboard patterns. Imagine early Tangerine Dream with a bit more rhythm and melody, or perhaps a more cosmic Vangelis. I was really drifting along with this one and would have loved for it to continue for a while as it was evolving very nicely and would have made a beautiful multi-movement suite.
Overall it's an excellent set that will appeal to Quarkspace fans and anyone into freaky electronica. Wanting to get the lowdown on where Paul is headed with this and other projects I traveled up the road to the Eternity's Jest studios where Paul filled me in on everything he's up to these days.
AI: You've long talked in terms of Quarkspace being the Mothership, so tell me how Church Of Hed came about.
Paul Williams (PW): I guess Church Of Hed would be a solo project, though I don't really like terming things that way. But I'm always working on music and the guys from Quarkspace don't really spend as much time working on music anymore so... an outlet of all my energies I guess. The CD kind of follows a similar structure of at least some songs, some improv, some electronica, some techno... maybe a bit more electronic on this go around. But yeah, I'm just always working on music and now Church Of Hed is going to be the main outlet for that. There will still be Quarkspace releases coming out.
AI: It's notable that the first track on the CD is titled "The Lone Freak".
PW: You caught that! But "Starbridge Freaks" all comes from this place, Starbridge Court [where the Eternity's Jest studios are located], we were the Starbridge Freaks, and you still got to plug away with the music. I can't help but not to do music and keep that energy level going. And we're still Quarkspace. We're still brothers. We've still got music coming out and we'll still be jamming together. We've still got enough music easily for Spacefolds 8 & 9. We've still got all the music for the comic book project with Matt Howarth. I'll be putting together a remix project. A whole host of odd material. I still want to put out the farewell show in a public domain way like we did with Drop, and even offer that as an option of the free disc that you get when you place an order with us. So that's something I'll probably end up doing this year. And Jim Lascko is going to be putting together a Quarkspace release through his sub-label. I guess it will be his choice of the best of our Strange Daze performances over the years.
AI: That would be cool. There's a lot of recorded Quarkspace available, but when I think of Quarkspace I think of a live band. Are you gearing Church Of Hed towards playing live?
PW: Yeah. We're probably not going to play out as often as Quarkspace did, but I definitely have plans on doing a tour. I was going to do something this fall on the east coast, but as the CD was taking me a little bit longer to get out than I had originally planned, it just didn't make sense to go out at that point. So we're probably going to do that in an April time frame. I hope for the Old Road project to do a significant tour out west. Go out Route 66 and come back on the Lincoln Highway. But of course that takes money and time off from day job land.
AI: Tell us about the Old Road Project.
PW: The Old Road Project is just the next chunk of music that's starting to come out of my head. And actually some of the musical bits are getting placed from things that haven't come out in songs, things that have already been written, and new ideas. It's essentially just old Route 66, and the Lincoln Highway, just a journey... a little bit of Neu!, a little bit of Magma... from a musical standpoint. It's going to be a double CD project. I probably have music for most of the Illinois portion in through St. Louis constructed. I think that's the one thing that going to be different is I intend to get whole chunks of it finished before we move on to the next section, as opposed to laying everything out and then building it up from that which is what we usually do with things. But I'd like to get whole parts finished, kind of like how the road was constructed.
AI: So as preparation you'd like to actually drive the route.
PW: Oh yeah. At least do some chunks of it. I've been doing a lot of the Lincoln Highway in Ohio. And when Church Of Hed played out in Philadelphia in June, Stan [Lyons] and I did most of the Lincoln Highway in Pennsylvania which is really cool. We went through Gettysburg. We went through near Bedford which is more in western Pennsylvania. When the Lincoln Highway was the thoroughfare for getting west to east or east to west in the US, there was this thing called the Ship In The Mountains, which was... basically the road takes this hairpin curve right there at a cliff side. And some dude built what looked like a ship and they had a restaurant and a hotel. And it was the IN place to be back in the 30's and 40's. And then when the Pennsylvania Turnpike was built people started using that instead of the old road. And it decayed and died and was replaced by generic Holiday Inns and things of that sort. And that's what we're going to try and capture on the CD from a musical standpoint. How we sort of lost a certain thing and just... the genericness I guess of America. No matter what interstate exit you're at there's usually a McDonalds, a Burger King, a Wendys. The same type of Holiday Inns or Hampton Inns and things like that. It's just kind of sad in a way. And it's just trying to express that sense of loss through music.
AI: And that will be a Church Of Hed project?
PW: Yeah, I think so. Y'know, you say that and then things happen and change. But that's the intention at this point.
AI: So who should we expect to see in the lineup of a live Church Of Hed.
PW: Probably me and Stan. And then Steve Hayes, who's played with the guys from Hawkwind in Star Nation, and has been around the Cleveland space rock scene for quite a while. And he's the key focal point of the Ashtabula County Space Rock Big Band, if that's what the said name of that group becomes. But he'll probably play keyboards and synths. And maybe free me up to do some drumming. I don't intend on singing so I'm probably not going to subject people to any of the vocal songs live.
AI: Are these your first recorded vocals since the National Steam CD?
PW: No, I'm on The Hidden Moon. On "Tether" I'm doing the bad Hammill impression. And I'm on Drop too. I sing the bridge on "Dropout From The World". And "Sound Inside You", I think I sing on that one.
AI: I think the only live vocals I've heard you do was at the Quarkspace farewell show when you did "Quarkspace, Strangeness & Charm".
PW: Yeah, and you know things are bad when we end the night doing Neil Young's "Down By The River" and I'm the only one doing the backup vocals right.
AI: But y'know, that was a lot of fun. It was a fun show. You had a lot of guests. And say what you will about "Down By The River" but you had a whole stage full of people, a very communal Woodstock feel to it.....
PW: It was a very very very poor man's Last Waltz I guess.
AI: Well call it that if you want but I thought it was pretty cool.
PW: Yeah, it was fun.
AI: But anyway, I do like your vocals.
PW: That's cool. I went back and forth with putting them on, and Lynette from The Red Masque who did the backing vocals, she encouraged it. And that's what we were trying to go for, especially with the last song, with me doing the bad Paul Kantner and Lynette doing Grace, and then I guess that makes Chet [Santia] being Marty. That is Chet, by the way. Everyone's kind of listed in pseudonym form.
AI: Which one is Chet?
PW: Chet's the one listed as Monsignor Weimerheiner I think.
AI: Well the Monsignor you've got as Monsignor Nomuzic. I think we all know who that is... Carl Howard.
PW: Oh, Chet is Cardinal Weimerheiner.
AI: Who is Sister Mary Haruspex?
PW: That's Lynette Shelly from The Red Masque.
AI: Is it ok to reveal who these people are?
PW: Yeah, we'll let you do it. But Rolling Stone... we'll lie to them.
AI: teop dlrow eht moht... who's that?
PW: Just look at it backwards.
AI: Thom The World Poet!!! That had to have been recorded a while ago.
PW: That's like my Jeff Lynne. Taking his spoken word stuff from "Blanket Hill" off of Drop and playing it backwards in the middle of "Alpha Century Leisuretime".
AI: Father Viv Bleating?
PW: That's Jay Swanson. And Archbishop of Budweiser if of course Stan. He played bass on quite a few tracks.
AI: I was giving this a close headphones listen last night and you've got all these different sounds and keyboard and synth styles on different songs yet they all come together pretty harmoniously. It really gives you a lot to listen to.
PW: Yeah, I tend to make dense mixes. And I tend to mix holistically, trying to go for the overall sound and the way things fit together, as opposed to really paying total care to how each individual thing sounds. I stumble into things... I don't really know what I'm doing... I mean from a mixing standpoint, so I just hope that it comes out good in the end. And treat the mix as a whole. And with Pro Tools now it's so easy to do that, and almost do your mixes as you're recording, which is the way I have it all set up and routed here. It's always running through all of my mastering gear at the same time so you can kind of mix as you're going along. That's how I did it with the Church Of Hed stuff. And some of that stuff I guess would be similar to how Quarkspace would do things as well. We take the loops and play over the top of them. I guess the difference in this case is that I'm just doing it by myself one or two times. It's fun. And this is a good room for doing music. A lot of people have come down here and done cool music. It's got a good vibe for that.
AI: So by the time this is published in January the CD should actually be out?
PW: It should be out any day now.
AI: Will this be another budget release?
PW: Yeah. I figured I'd rather get it out for $5. It is different from the Spacefolds in that there's a little more effort made into it whereas the Spacefolds is just straight improv. This is more composed, though there is improv here and there. But I wanted to get it out to folks as inexpensively as we could. And it will be a Spacefolds like packaging. It's always about getting the music out to the people.
AI: You mentioned that things are a little more composed. I noticed that except for "Alpha Century Leisuretime" which is about 9 minutes, everything else is in the 3-5 minute range.
PW: It just kind of happened that way. Drop was like that as well, except for "Blanket Hill". That tends to be an oscillating sort of thing. But yeah, there's some shorter loops. I guess maybe less of a tendency to ride a loop for 6 or 7 minutes and jam over it.
AI: What about Church Of Hed live? Will there be the improv that was always such a big part of Quarkspace shows?
PW: Yeah. I think maybe we did one freakout piece at the Philadelphia show. We did a lot of the CD. But a lot of that stuff when you get the loops going you're just improving on top of those loops anyway. And then we did some Quarkspace loops. And people were really diggin those too. It worked really well.
AI: Is the Philly show the only Church Of Hed performance there's been so far?
AI: Given that there may not be another Strange Daze festival, any thoughts to how you'll approach live performance in terms of where you'd like to play?
PW: A similar approach to the places Quarkspace would play. Philly's got a good scene going. The Red Masque put that show together. Doug McMahan [of Scattered Planets] put that space rock show together recently. But probably things like that. Festivals are great because you do get a lot of passionate fans to come out. And they're a good time. Maybe some bars here and there, but honestly I don't like playing bars. That's why the festivals tend to be a bit more fun. But bars are kind of cool. That really good show Quarkspace did in Burlington was a bar. But the kind of music we're doing... strange electronica... I don't know. It's hard to find an interesting market for that. But one thing that we're going to try and do with the Old Road Project is to maybe look at playing out at Borders or things like that. Because you get a place to play where you can play for people who are coming out to buy interesting music and you might be able to find some people that way. I guess the easiest thing to do when you do shows though is to just try and network with other bands.
The Church Of Hed CD is available NOW!!!
For more information you can visit the Church Of Hed web site at: http://www.churchofhed.com.
Contact via snail mail c/o Eternity's Jest Records; PMB 212; 1487 W. Fifth Ave; Columbus, OH 43212.