By Jerry Kranitz
Band photos by Roger Neville-Neil
From Aural Innovations #6 (April 1999)
I always check out bands that my readers recommend. AI readers know. But in the case of King Black Acid (KBA) the enthusiasm with which a subscriber talked about the band and their live performances was such that I immediately sought out all three of their available CD's. The band's recorded works to date are as King Black Acid and the Womb Star Orchestra, though they have since evolved into King Black Acid and the Starseed Transmission. The link between the two, and King Black Acid's prime mover, is musician Daniel John Riddle who spoke with Aural Innovations from his home in Portland, Oregon. We'll start with a discussion of King Black Acid's music followed by excerpts from our conversation with Daniel.
Spacerock. Psychedelia. Ear candy. Mind expansion. Sure, they all apply. But it's difficult to talk about King Black Acid in terms of the specifics of what is happening in the music, and it seems like something hasn't been properly communicated when using the standard descriptive keywords. There is a certain mood and atmosphere King Black Acid excels at creating which does a better job than many similar bands at allowing the listener to fall into their groove and just sail along. There may not be anything particularly complex or even anything that changes musically for lengthy periods yet the repetition nonetheless feels right and is most certainly welcome. This is a far cry from Riddle's earlier recording band, Hitting Birth, which played a heavily percussive, highly aggressive form of free style rock music. Some of it reminds me of earlier Material with the heavy thudding Bill Laswell bass lines. Other parts bring to mind a New York Downtown outrock version of Stomp. Being a fan of such freeform aggressive, but inventive rock music I found Hitting Birth to be an interesting ensemble and the contrasts with King Black Acid are striking.
KBA has released three CD's to date, all as the Womb Star Orchestra. They are Womb Star Session from 1995, Sunlit from 1996, and Royal Subjects from 1997. The music on all is characterized by lengthy excursions into space and it wasn't until Royal Subjects that any songs clocked in at under 10 minutes. These aren't just relentless jams though as clear song structures are part of the mix as well. King Black Acid's recorded history began when the opportunity arose to play live on a local public radio station. Of the resulting CD release Daniel says, "It was recorded by a friend of ours on a ninety-seven cent medium bias cassette that he had taped a lecture on and he heard that we were playing on a Sunday night and popped it in and recorded it. And we mastered our first CD right off of that. We didn't even know anybody was gonna record it."
Womb Star Session includes four tracks. "The Wave" is an ambient psychedelic soundscape piece played at an easy going pace that is King Black Acid's trademark. Numerous sounds create an atmosphere that at times reminded me of a forest and at others sounded like an underwater world. Efx'd vocals contribute much to the soundscapes and mood of the piece. "Aloha" is similar in tempo and ambience but ventures into more purely musical territory. A single synth melody is repeated while Middle Eastern sounding psychedelia is played around it. After a while the percussion becomes more conspicuous and a heavier guitar strum pops up periodically. Echoed chanting vocals are introduced followed by slowly soloing psych guitar and tabla sounding percussion. "Alone On Mars" is the first actual sense of a structured song and is a good example of King Black Acid's propensity for incorporating stand alone songs into lenghty jams. The music takes on an intensity and driving quality that we haven't heard yet. The bass has that low end pulse that you can feel in your chest and the guitars get pleasantly acidic. The tension builds and there's a bit of a Latin Santana beat going while remaining firmly psychedelic. The song ends with a bit of a space freakout that fades away with a repeating mechanical pulse.
King Black Acid followed up Womb Star Session in 1996 with their first studio recording, Sunlit. Yet as Daniel explains even this wasn't a planned "regular" recording. "The second record we put out was recorded on our way to play the South By Southwest Fiasco. We had a couple days off in Los Angeles. We played a show at the Dragonfly and then we played a show on a radio station and in between those we had three shows cancelled on us. So a friend of our who's a collector of analog vintage gear has a recording studio down there and he's like, why don't you guys just set up and play. And we had loose song structures that I had been working on that I didn't really introduce much to the band yet so I just drew up sort of maps and little cheater cards that I would hold up, and we sort of orchestrated on the fly and we put together three songs, and flew back down a couple days later to spend a day in the studio mixing them. And that's where Sunlit came from."
The music on Sunlit sees King Black Acid firming up their explorations into lengthy voyages that still focus on song structures. The playing is never complex or flashy, and often sounds more raw than proficient. But what makes the music magic is the sum, the whole. Not the final product, but the whole product while it's happening. The creative spirit can do wonders with just a little. The three tracks on Sunlit are all in the 20 minute range. Of the song quality that is always retained Daniel says, "I suppose they could have been all 6-7 minute pop songs. The last time I did an interview they asked me why I was doing these long songs and what it was I was looking for and my answer was y'know, I guess I'm still sort of looking for the perfect 18 minute pop song."
The disc opens with "Some Things Must Be Believed To Be Seen" which starts off as an acoustic song in a spacey synth embellished atmosphere. The music develops into a jam that is reminiscent of Pink Floyd circa Dark Side Of The Moon. Things soon become more purely psychedelic with the Floyd sound on the one hand and the psych guitar on the other. The music moves slowly but is powerfully intense blasting the listener into orbit while enfolded in a warm safe blanket. True aural mind expansion. The duel guitars are perfect with one playing the Floyd style and the other playing like a shimmering acidic earthquake.
"Headfull" has that drifting valium induced quality that many of the songs do with the guitars and piano playing a melody that flows along to a lazy rhythm. "Think Away" is a much more aggressive track. The vocals are part haunting whisper and part viscious growl. The guitars play slowly with creepy space sounds and wild voicings popping up throughout the tune. The music builds to the point where it takes on a psychedelic doom metal quality. Drugged out. Freaked out. Stoned. This is the most high volume intense King Black Acid has so far gotten and it's a roller coaster ride of fuzz guitars and agonized vocals. Still, the band can't help but have mercy as the song ends with friendlier vocals and a full minute of nothing but ocean waves. A powerful track.
"Royal Subjects" is King Black Acid's third release and included selections from the soundtrack music they did for the movie Zig Zag. Of the film score Daniel points out, "That was about half of the music we did. The other half was incidental music that had no vocals, no drums, very spacey ambient stuff. That was supposed to be put out by a label on vinyl but they sort of dropped the ball and it never happened. The rest of the stuff in mastering we shortened down and tried to make songs out of it that people could follow in some sort of linear fashion, but also trying to convey to them that once again it was a film score."
Royal Subjects combines the longer excursions that King Black Acid had been known for to this point with shorter tunes. Songs like "Grand Mal Pleasure", "Call Me On The Headphones", and "Passing Through The Photon Belt" give a taste of the spacey ambient stuff that Daniel says was largely left off. "60 Cycles Numb" is bit different sounding a lot like David Bowie's "Heroes". "Only Wine Will Tell" returns to Pink Floyd terrain completely with soulful Great Gig In The Sky style vocals by Jennifer Folker. The tune develops into trademark King Black Acid drugged psychedelia and the addition of guest violin embellishes the music with lead lines that both complement and contrast the guitars nicely. And the title track is characterized by mysterious space soundscapes that are joined by a carnival organ which provides a bouncey melody that plays along with a drifting guitar solo. Bass and percussion take off and the whole thing feels like a spaced out Carnival Of Souls (though I have no idea what the film Zig Zag is about). The carnival organ remains constant while the music develops around it.
In it's new incarnation as The Starseed Transmission, King Black Acid is scheduled to be in the studio at this time. I was fortunate to obtain some live material that gives a glimpse into what we might expect from the next release. I did, however, also receive some past Womb Star Orchestra performances and it's notable that few of the songs played in concert are from the CD's. Little surprise given Daniel's comments about the recordings and certainly something that must make a King Black Acid show all the more exciting. Who knows what they'll play tonight...
I tread on difficult water commenting on the new version of King Black Acid having just heard their live performance. There's no point in mentioning songs as they aren't necessarily going to make it on the CD. This certainly isn't an entirely new King Black Acid. The basic sound is intact. I will say that Porcupine Tree fans will drool over this. Some of the music sounds like Sky Moves Sideways and Up The Downstair-era Porcupine Tree. Not surprising given that band is also known for extended dreamy psych jams combined with songs that stick themselves in your brain after a single listen. And while I'm on the subject of live King Black Acid, after listening to the four shows I was given it's clear that there's something to what fans are raving about. During our phone discussion Daniel talked about King Black Acid shows, the band's history, and was gracious enough to share his views on a number of topics.
AI: It seems that King Black Acid grew out of a band called Hitting Birth. How does that project differ from King Black Acid, or was this a transition to King Black Acid?
DJR: I was originally recording myself under the name King Black Acid as just like a nickname that friends of mine from San Francisco gave me when I was down there... I'm not exactly sure why (laughs). But there are some hypotheses on that. And I would just make tapes. And when I first moved up to Portland, OR about eleven years ago I was waiting for my rock band that I played drums in to move up. That was a band called the Indigo Zeros. And while I was waiting for them to move up I met some cats that were into... I guess percussive, beat oriented music, and found instrumentation, and sort of spoken word stuff. And I started playing with them just to sort of get it off in the meantime. And none of them had any musical training. What attracted me to it was one of the gentlemen built a harp out of a shopping cart. It had contact lights all over it and would run it through modulation devices, and square wave distortion boxes, and wah pedals and different amplification. And he had several different styles of playing it percussively, and picking it like a harp. So it sounded sort of like underground sonar radar... it was just very bizarre and it just attracted me so I started putting together found percussion kits combined with some drum stuff. And a couple years later we just found it to be a group, and we were writing songs and making music, and a year or two after that we were even more musical. And it just kept progressing until it turned into basically like a perverted industrial tribal rock band, but basically emphasis on rock band because thats kind of what it mutated into. And we were signed to a major label and they were trying to squeeze radio hits out of us. And we realized at that point that it had gotten so far from what we had wanted to do that we just sort of let go of it. In the meantime, I couldn't really do anything being signed to that label. I wanted to continue doing music but I wanted to do something that wasn't as bombastic and as beat oriented, and I wanted to do something a little more cerebral and relaxed. We were used to playing in front of hundreds, if not thousands, of kids jumping around and it kind of had that sound that was starting to manifest at that time in the consciousness of a lot of music players. Y'know, Rage Against The Machine and groups like that that are very beat oriented, very cerebral in the delivery of their lyrics and that's kind of where we were coming from. And I felt like I wanted to get away from that and do something that was just completely the opposite end of the spectrum for me. And that's when I first started doing what I was doing on my 4-track only getting people to play with me, and I sort of dubbed it Coma Core. The original group that I put together was with a kid who I met who lived up the street from who I had met when Hitting Birth was touring with Faust, and we snuck him into a 21 and over show. He was like 14 years old and he was waiting all night to get into the show. And we all knew what it was like to not be able to get in to a 21 and over show so we just strapped a guitar on him and brought him in. And then he ended up moving just a block away from me a year later so I invited him over to play. He had an amplifier and a guitar and really didn't know much, which was perfect. So I stuck in a delay and turned his reverb up and that was it, he was in the band. And my girlfriend at the time had decided to play music but hadn't played any instruments so I hooked her up with a keyboard through a bunch of effects, and she just played with one finger and did a great job. And then I found a bass player who played in a local group here who I met in the metaphysics section at a bookstore. And he was talking to me about his theories of crop circles and marijuana crops and thought... this kid is fuckin' left field man, and he plays bass, and I thought perfect, y'know. I invited him over to play. He played in town in a band here called Snowbud, which is guys who write all songs about smoking marijuana basically, and growing it. And they played for High Times magazine showcases and been in High Times magazine and stuff like that. So I snatched him up and that was the original lineup. We had no drums, no percussion for a while. At the same time I'm still doing Hitting Birth, but I'm sort of fazing it out. But the drummer that I was playing with in Hitting Birth at the time used to be in this band called the Wipers. And the percussionist was in this band called Elliot Sharpe's Carbon. He's a session player. He plays also in a band called Pigface, which is Martin Atkins from Invisible Records who was in Killing Joke and PIL and whatnot. So they were doing the hard and heavy stuff in Hitting Birth and they stuck around to hear us practice one day and they said we sure wish we could play in this other band we like that stuff even more. So we let em sit in and two weeks later we got invited to play at a radio station two blocks away from where we practice and that is basically where our first CD came from. But the lineup I have currently, the only member that is the same as that lineup is the drummer Scott Adamo who used to play in the Wipers, and some local area rock and punk rock bands. He just really liked what we were doing and sort of stuck. The other lineup has changed since then. Sort of evolved members. We went through several bass players. Now the lineup is at a point where it's a little bit more pop and a little bit more accessible, but it's still rooted in all this stuff that I was inspired by musically. Things like... my mom's boyfriend drove a truck for the Grateful Dead when I was a kid, and although I never was a fan of the band the music did affect me and I did get to see groups like Carlos Santana, and Neil Young. And those were the people that were instrumental in inspiring me to play music at all and I was very affected by these people. And then sort of growing up listening to groups like the Toiling Midgets, and the Sleepers, and then into things like Brian Eno and early Roxy Music. And then there seemed to be in the late 60's and 70's groups like Can and Faust and the whole what was coined the Krautrock... and some of the fringe progressive rock music that I was turned on to. And then a touch of the early synthesizer stuff like the early Simple Minds music and a lot of it rooted in pop. Groups like Wire. These are all groups that have sort of shaped and inspired what I was doing. I've never had any musical training. I played drums in a band for a couple years, and I played bass, and then in King Black Acid I originally was playing all the instruments and then I decided I just wanted to play guitar. And still to this day I don't know how much of a guitar player I am as much as I play the effects pedals. And the same with the vocals. I play the pedals and the microphones more so than I would play the natural instrument of the voice. But it's a process of learning. So that's what King Black Acid is, and we've put out three records total.
AI: I guess you can tell by looking at our magazine that our readers probably love these long instrumental excursions.
DJR: Yeah, perfect for that. As far as I knew there wasn't a whole lot of bands doing that locally which is sort of a shock to me when I pick up the magazine I'm like... there's probably a hell of a lot more people out there doing this than I really have the idea. Y'know, we've sort of had this exclusive on it in the Northwest. We didn't know of any other groups doing anything like that. Sky Cries Mary is up here, but... the last time we played with them compared to their set what we were doing was extremely esoteric and sort of hard to grip for a lot of people. Really spacey stuff. And like I said since then its changed quite a bit. We're doing a little bit more along the lines of what they're doing. Some of the songs have gotten a lot shorter and a little more palatable realizing that if we want to orchestrate and arrange and capture stuff down on CD that distilling some of it probaby wouldn't hurt, although I still am rooted in the album oriented rock of the 60's and 70's. I grew up listening to that album rock. So for me I don't have a problem with it... y'know, the 20 minute song at all.
AI: Are most of these excursions improvised?
DJR: The intuitive work that we do... I guess you'd call it improvisation, I prefer to refer to it as intuitive because that's kind of what we're doing. We're still orchestrating only we're not talking about it or throwing up signs. We're just doing it intuitively through the spirit and mind. And I'd say that that element has always been between 40 and 60 percent in the mix. Some songs will get worked out to the point where we only leave about 40 percent to intuitive playing or improvisational playing. And other songs we just have a couple hand signs that mean change here, change there. I learned that one from when Hitting Birth was touring with this group called Caspar Brotzman Massaker. They're sort of the industrial side of spacerock with Caspar being sort of like the German Jimi Hendrix. And his father [Peter] was an avant garde sort of outrock... he's a jazz horn player who's like in the whole Ornette Coleman school of taking shit way out there. And so he plays sort of his German spacey industrial music along the lines of 15-20 minute songs, and his songs are never the same. They're all done on how he's feeling at the time and he'll put up hand signs, and eventually the band learns to read his gestures and body movements and that's what I started doing with King Black Acid. I kind of got that from him. And constantly training the group to read each other's movements, physical and otherwise. It's to the point where they know if I make a certain sound, they don't even have to be looking at me, if I make a certain sound during a song that they know that I'm getting ready for what they refer to as "launching". Where sometimes I'll launch at some point in the song, and I'll come back like ten minutes later and that will be the end of that verse. There really is no set formula for it but we try to intuit what we're doing and read each other intuitively.
AI: That has to be a real challenge putting together a band like that where you can have that non-spoken, or giving each other signs communication.
DJR: Yeah. And it works out that some people really work good on that level and some peope don't. And it's good to have a mix because we found in our last lineup it was really good to have a bass player who really didn't work so well intuitively, but he also didn't have a problem justlocking into a groove and going for it. Not all bass players are ok with that. Y'know, they're just like, hey after playing the same thing for 15 minutes I'm ready to take a break. But we were lucky enough to get players that would just close their eyes and just realize how important what they were doing, and how it was affecting the music, and how they were creating the foundation for us to build this stuff on. And that shows a bit in our first CD. We have never really gone in the studio as King Black Acid to record a record of songs we were working on. All three of those records were done as... the first one was the radio show. We had no idea we were even recording. The second one... we didn't want to record any of the songs we were working on because we didn't know how much time were going to have in the studio so we just thought, let's just rip this. The third, Royal Subjects... we didn't want to give them any of our songs we'd been working on because we didn't know how well the movie was gonna do, and as we suspected it went straight to video and they beefed up the sex and violence scenes and sold it in foreign territories that are into that sort of thing. Not that the United States is not. So we're hoping that this new record we're gonna do will be able to do that. Since then I've added some new players and of course the new players affect the music. And I don't want to tell them this is what kind of music we're going to do. I just write songs and let them sort of interpret them the way that they feel it should be interpreted and then sort of loosely guide them through it. Because of that we've ended up with a bass player now who's entirely musical compared to the players we've had in the past. He wants to move around. He wants to be a lot more melodic and instrumental. More of the Pink Floyd sound where there's melodic movement through it as opposed to Spacemen 3 or something like that where it's like they lock into a groove and that's it. The guitar player I've got... she's a lot more versed in British pop music. And although she really likes the spacerock she doesn't listen to much of that kind of music. So it's good because she brings a fresh breath of air into it not having any preconceptions of what spacerock really is or what it should sound like. And she's affected us in a lot more of a poppy aspect. Our drummer of course is the same drummer I've had for a while. He just loves to play. It doesn't matter to him whether it's a 20 minute song or a two and a half minute pop song. Right now keyboard player and percussionist we're rotating around. We have players that we session with and we don't have a solid lineup. So the songs that we're about to go in the studio and do in the next month or so we're really gonna depend on who of our friends that can play keyboards can come in and hit that. We'll see. I notice that in the last couple years the bands that want to play with us are increasing. It was really hard for us in the past... about the time that first record came out to find bands that would play with us because nobody really got what we were doing. And since then there's a lot more groups that have sprung up. Groups like the Dandy Warhols. Groups like Swoon 23, and groups new to the area like Jessamine. There's Station Control Advisory Committee which is another local spacerock... very much in the vein of Can. And we're starting to meet touring bands like Space Team Electra from Denver.
AI: On your first three albums you were King Black Acid And The Womb Star Orchestra, and now you're King Black Acid And The Starseed Transmission. Was that intentional to signify the band going in a different direction?
DJR: Yeah, the feel of the music changed enough and the members changed, and so I kind of felt like we were the Womb Star Orchestra during the first three records and then we sort of were transitioning out of that role. And then I felt like we were more like the Starseed Transmission... the title seemed to fit what we were doing. And having the change of players and the change of groups. It helped them to have ownership over the music as well. It's not like they're joining something that's already going and they don't have a say in what's happening musically. So what I do is I keep the same moniker of King Black Acid and I just change the band titles as different bands come in and out. And also accordingly as the vibe of the music changes.
AI: So any live performances I've heard of in recent months would have been as The Starseed Transmission?
DJR: Yeah, in the last 3 ½ to 4 months. And then there was a good six month period when I was just looking for players and I didn't do anything. I just did a little bit of studio work, and some commercial work.
AI: So you've been able to hire youself out as a musician?
DJR: I haven't been doing a lot of that lately, but King Black Acid itself has been in about six or seven films that we had songs in. We scored one, and I personally have done work with the percussion [KBA] player Joseph Trump, and we have together done Nike commercials, and... just like shoes and soda pop and shit like that where they'll play us like inspirational music like Brian Eno, Laurie Anderson, Peter Gabriel... usually it's Eno or Gabriel that they play for us and then they say we want something like this only we don't want to pay them $250,000 in publishing. So we'd go in and bring an old Roland SH-101 and my enormous pedal board, and guitar and Joe's percussion stuff and go for it until we give em something they want. There hasn't been a lot of that work lately because what's happened is the sort of one man, or in some cases two man, computer band has become really popular and we lost out in the last year and a half to a lot of gigs just because they wanted the name... like the Chemical Brothers. We lost like four or five gigs to them.
AI: So tell me some of the films that we could hear King Black Acid music in. Obviously Zig Zag cause that what's on Royal Subjects...
DJR: Yeah, Zig Zag is one that's only on video. It's gonna be a little bit difficult to find and unfortunately it's one of the only ones I've actually seen. Let's see... Dream With Fishes is another one I believe that's with David Arquette. Do Me A Favor is another one and that's Rosanne Arquette. You're gonna figure out very shortly that we have a tie in with this family. The Maker is another one... I think once again David Arquette. That's all I can remember right now. The truth is none of these people have ever sent us copies of this stuff.
AI: Does this kind of work help bring you closer to being a full-time musician?
DJR: It had at one point. And since then I wasn't able to keep the momentum up... here's one of the reasons. When we went in to do Royal Subjects it was a lot of tedious work and a lot of time in the studio. And the nature of the deal was that we were working in a studio that was... the engineer was green, he'd only recorded one band before and that was his own. The equipment was extremely minimal. One reverb unit, one compressor, a couple of microphones, it was very much like a project. And here we are doing something for a film. So it took a lot of time because we didn't have a lot of technology... we substituted with time. And when you do that the attention of your members can stray fairly easily. So at the time all these people in the group are having all these things going on in their lives and they need to keep moving and provide for themselves. At the time my relationship with our keyboard player who I'm living with... and we're resolving a six and a half to seven year relationship, and that was affecting the music very intensely and made it hard to get things done. And the guitar player had just turned 21, so he's out doing a little chemical exploration... that made it a little hard to get things done. And our bass player was doing some traveling, and our drummer was moving and also had another group at the time. So I really ended up doing about half or three quarters of the record by myself and bringing in other session people and that's sort of where the group fell apart. Up until then we were doing fine because we were gigging constantly, and there was a time there where a couple of us were able to maintain that but to do that for a long period of time is really hard. You have to have serious income. And from my experience in the past it's really really hard to do that on a major label without going into debt. So I really wanted my anonymity and my autonomy. And I've sort of found that in Cavity Search, but on the other hand it means you have to get out and hussle extremely hard and it burned me out. So I just went back to working a day job. And now I get up for work at 5:30 in the morning, work till about 3:30 and come home, work in the studio until the band comes over and then have band practice three or four days a week. When I'm not doing that I'm just recording.
AI: You've got a studio in your home. Is the recording you're doing all related to King Black Acid or are you doing a lot of personal experimentation?
DJR: Right now it's pretty much all me and my bass player. I try to get the group to come over and do that outside of band practice but it's really hard cause they've all got other stuff that's going on, and they're not as fanatical about music as I am. That's just one of my main passions is doing the music. That and the things that I try to cross over into my music and that is my interest in metaphysics and in the study of science and things like that, and how sound and vibration affects people and how it affects consciousness and the developing of consciousness on the planet. And the healing arts as well. Because music for me is another way to participate in communication and in the healing arts. And without having gone to college, and without having doctrines and certificates, its hard to be involved in communication and healing and things like that out in the world without these monikers... which don't really mean much to me. Achieving those things aren't important to me. What's important to me is actually doing the work and reaching out to people. And having people reach out again in return. Whether it's through the music or through any form of conscious development and growth outside of antibiotics, and sterile laboratories and things like that. Does that make any sense?
AI: It makes a lot of sense. Do you think... I'm thinking of the word holistic... that music can be healing in and of itself?
DJR: Oh, absolutely, positively. And I speak from experience. I wasn't about to wait for anybody to tell me that because I had been affected myself... through not just music but sound and vibration. And I had heard music come out of people and through my body... y'know, I had experiences as a child that I could not explain. I had gone to see people perform... like the Bulgarian Woman's Choir many years ago and it went right into my body. And it changed the physical function of my body. And I had seen Sufi performers as a child. And once again I had an experience where I had left my body. And my progenitors... my ancestors were all there... they were all like around me as physicians, as healers, and as these beings who participated through the vibration of the music. I mean, holistic is the word to use. It's the only word I know that describes that experience because everything affects everything else. And I realized at a young age... in my early 20's and my late teens... that it was really hard for me to express the experiences that I was having without losing a lot of friends and whatnot. And without putting myself in the position of judgement a little too much. And I'm not quite willing to own the repercussions of that. And knowing that it was important for me to have attention and to be around people and to feel wanted and loved and needed, and when I was shooting both barrels so to speak and really just running off at the mouth with this stuff... people didn't quite have the language... they didn't know how to respond or how to interact with what I was telling them, and it was making them feel perhaps outside the loop. And music was a way for me to draw people back in... and myself as well, to let myself be drawn back in and affected emotionally and not be shut down emotionally. So music's been many things to me and I rediscover music constantly.
AI: Given everything you've been telling me, do you think your music affects people this way in a live situation?
DJR: That's what I'm told. I don't know for sure cause I've never seen us play live, but when people come up to us after the shows I can tell... I can kind of tell sometimes when I'm on stage... if I really launch... if I start playing a song, and then the next thing I know I'm ending the song and I didn't really know what I did in between. And so in those ways I sort of become a conduit for this energy that kind of comes through me. And when that happens sometimes it can change everything that I play and everything that I sing... all the words, all the lyrics change, the melodies change. And sometimes not. Sometimes the song is the same as its always been only the emotional impact has totally gone up several notches. But yeah, definitely people relate that.
AI: Tell me about the local support you have. Is there a Portland scene in which you're supported by the media?
DJR: I think what happened when we first started playing out live and we were playing for groups of friends... the friend of a friend thing sort of spread, and one of the people that first came to those early shows was a writer for The Rocket which is kind of a local magazine here. It's Seattle and Portland's version of BAM, which is Bay Area Music magazine which has become a national comglomerate on the west coast and they bought up The Rocket. And a writer who wrote for them and does a lot of independent work fell in love with our group. And then he brought some people so there was a couple writers that really liked what we were doing that saw that nobody else was really doing anything quite like that at the time, and it was so fresh and new to them, and it was quite a relaxed scene. Especially when we were doing something like Hitting Birth where we would draw twelve to thirteen hundred people, but a lot of what would happen in the rock shows, and I'm sure this is similar everywhere... y'know, there's fifteen or twenty people who are really music fans and really go to listen to the songs. And then there are usually fifty or sixty more people who will go just to see those people and what they're wearing and who they're talking to, which is what you call a scene. And that sort of was happening here, and we really didn't have a scene... we had an audience. And that was sort of fresh to a lot of people. But that's where the media support came from was the fact that they felt there was something new and fresh in the area, and nobody was really writing about it or talking about it and I guess they were just affected by it. And the people on the radio really seem to like us too like the KBOO show that we did which that first CD came from. They were constantly in support of us. They would come to our shows and try to get us to play on the radio constantly.
AI: You mention playing to 12-13 hundred people. What are some of these situations you're playing in? Are these all regional, or have you been able to tour...
DJR: They're all regional. The only touring we've ever done besides going up to Seattle, Bellingham, and stuff like that... and Eugene, which is what we call the I-5 Corridor... the only other tour that we've done was when we went down through California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas to do the South By Southwest Fiasco. I was very happy to be able to get out of our own backyard because we were doing so good that we really needed a humbling experience... for us to be able to play once again in coffee shops in front of like 15 or 20 people really really made us happy.
AI: Are there any concrete plans for a new release this the new lineup?
DJR: There's no release set but we just set studio dates for March. And we're gonna go in in March and April and I think we're gonna do some experimenting. We're gonna do our basic tracks in the studio, and then we're gonna take it home and do the overdubs on ADAT... dump everything down to digital tape. And then bring that back again to mix in the studio and dump it back down to analog tape. So we're gonna half do it in the studio and half do it at home just to see what happens. And I'm imagining that hopefully we'll have something by early Summer. In the meantime there are other projects that I sort of have my fingers in. One is having young music explorers who are using the digital format and computers to sort of do remixes of our stuff, and the record label has been really happy with that... sort of the fusion with electronica music. And they are excited about hopefully having a record out before our next record comes out of the electronica stuff, and the real spacey droney stuff combined with that. So there are a few projects. And also me working with the 8-track in the basement. We're hoping a release might come out of that too. So always trying to keep something going on... several things.
I'd like to thank Roger Neville-Neil for turning me on to King Black Acid and for supplying the Hitting Birth CD's.
Check out the official King Black Acid web site maintained by Cavity Search Records. Click here to check it out.
There's another informative King Black Acid web site maintained by Ryan Petersen. Click here to check it out.