From Aural Innovations #6 (April 1999)
Tom Spacey - "Mars Is Eden" (Zeromass Records 1999)
Ok, space fans... we've got ourselves a band that could get themselves some serious radio airplay and in the process blitz the masses with creative songs and instrumental music. This is highly melodic spacerock that sets a floating groove and then soars straight into the cosmos. The band claims inspiration from such bands as My Bloody Valentine and Pink Floyd, and indeed I was reminded of Pink Floyd at various times. Based in the Chicago area, Tom Spacey is a five piece that includes Cory Osborne on bass, Hammond organ, and vocals, Adam Thompson on guitars, piano, and vocals, Daniel Cline on guitars, John Meseke on drums and percussion, and KC Saint John on synthesizer and theremin.
As the bio material says, the band's early shows were characterized by effects-drenched instrumentals and ambient/melodic improvisations. This element is firmly entrenched in the music on Mars Is Eden, though structured songs are equally important. And it's this combination of ear candy space jams and catchy vocal numbers that gives Mars Is Eden its strength.
"Silly Things" starts things off with a bang as we're sucked in by a melody line that is simple but immediately grabbed me. This song leads directly into "Drone", which is a similarly catchy song. Tom Spacey manages to take elements of drone spacerock and use it as a backdrop rather than being the focal point of their sound. This backdrop is intense, but not an ear splitting wall of noisey aggression. Instead it serves to give the band a very full sound with one guitar, which tends to be a heavy fuzz rhythm, and the other picking the melody. At other times both guitars are picking melody lines and these moments are quite tranquil. The music... well it just feels good.
There are a number of other equally powerful songs which only reinforces Tom Spacey's strength with both space jam and melody. "End Song" is a longer tune that gives the band room to play a song as well as stretch out more in the jam department. The guitar work is absolutely gorgeous on this track. Thompson and Cline's twin guitars work together wonderfully and there's a portion with some mind blowing cosmic soloing.
The band also includes several purely instrumental tracks. "Antares" is a snake charmer of an Indian/Middle Eastern tune with cool sitar sounds. "The Moors" is an ambient instrumental with a prominent but thudding drum beat accompanied by phased guitars and spacey keyboards. "Since You've Gone (scsr stripped mix)" a somewhat ambient, somewhat techno ambient tune. An interesting finale and the last of the "regular" tracks. There are actually a total of 40 tracks on this CD. But from track 12 on they are all 3 seconds of silence with the exception of track 38 which is something of a hidden track and very different from the other songs on the CD. It's a heavily looped piece with a hypnotizing female singer. There's no lyrics. She just kind of chants along to the looped bits and atmospheric guitar. Aural Innovations conducted the following interview with Tom Spacey via cyberspace:
AI: I suspect this is your number one asked question but I can't resist... where did the name Tom Spacey come from?
Corey Osborne: It's really not that clever. We were playing under the dubious name of the Gnomes, but I was trying to come up with something that could relate to 'time' and 'space'. Sort of like 'Time Spacey'. Also we kind of thought it would be cool to create this character who embodied our space-like themes. At one point we had a whole Tom Spacey mythos - but it was kind of a hassle. We originally called ourselves Tom Spacey and the Cohourts. Tom Spacey was supposed to be like this Bob Dobbs-ish leader-figure/muse who kind of guided us. But the whole story got tedious and 'Tom Spacey and the Cohourts' was a bit too much for places like the Metro to put on their marquee.
KC Saint John: I always tell fans that Tom Spacey is that special place in everyone where it always feels safe.
AI: Your bio says the band started by focusing on instrumentals and improvs. You mention Pink Floyd as an influence. Were other early space, psych, Krautrock bands an influence?
Daniel Cline: Actually most of our influences are more contemporary like My Bloody Valentine, Verve, Ride. But I would definitely say that bands like Can, Love, and people like Brian Eno are influences as well.
John Meseke: What I like about Tom Spacey is that all of us are open to checking out new bands and trying new things. With all of us with different tastes, it sure adds an overall digestibility, if you may... for not only us but also our listeners.
AI: I don't hear a lot of bands who can do good solid "songs" that are also backed by creatively cosmic spacerock jams. Did the focus on songs come later or did things just develop that way?
Corey: We've definitely become more structured, mostly because we are required to by set time and constraints. We have a larger pool of actual songs to play as well - so in a typical 45 minute set we try to play as much of our better songs as possible. That doesn't leave much time for improvisation, especially since we always finish with 'Endsong' and that Mother Fucker is 10 minutes long.
KC Saint John: And now that the venues are getting to like us more and more, the owners are more lenient to allow us to play longer or come back for encores. They don't give us more money, just more time. What ever happened to Time is Money.
Corey: But we did want to throw some extra stuff on the album that we weren't always able to play live. Tracks like 'The Moors' and 'The Dutchmen' were written in the studio and produced for maximum listening pleasure, and recently we have been performing them live at venues that offer stereo sound. Mono only gives you half of what Tom Spacey is all about.
KC: Quadraphonic sound is in the mix. It'll only take Time and Money.
AI: Your music has a great cosmic jam sound, but is accessibly melodic with clear radio play potential. A coincidence or conscious goal?
Corey: We start out with a basic improv. We write all of our stuff, and if it suits it we cut it down into a radio friendly format. Wouldn't you say? I mean we do want to have radio songs if it's possible but it's not the goal of the band or anything.
John: Some of the songs that have already been playing on the Chicago stations aren't even the ones we were going to use for radio use. The stations got a hold of the CD's and the personalities, I guess, choose their favorites.
Adam: It's also a survival mechanism. If you can get one or two singles per album you're just better off.
AI: Do you get to play live much? Tell me about Tom Spacey live, or any notable shows you've done.
KC: I have to say that last Metro show went well because the house ran all of our panning properly.
Adam: We'll rock your ass live!
Corey: We play two to three times a month. And we're starting to play out of town more and more. I think it is a lot better to come out and see us. It's a lot louder. We get to do a lot of stuff with songs that we don't do on the album.
Adam: We're getting better and better.
KC: We've got an engulfing sound that just wraps you up like a warm feeling. That tingly thing you get when the sun is shining on your face after you just smok a fat one.
Corey: We work our asses off to put together a kick ass live show. That's what it's all about. It starts with playing live.
KC: So make bootlegs of us live.
Corey: Steak Pie.
AI: While the CD is song focused, do your live performances feature any extended improv jams?
John: More and more.
Daniel: It goes back to the time constraints and set lists. Whenever we can we try to throw down improves and stuff like that. When we do our headline spots, that's when we improv more.
Adam: Also, our comfort level in the band with the members is growing and it has been heightening the potential of what we can get away with.
Corey: As every one starts to fit more in a roll with the band, and with more practice more jams, it will be only a matter of time before we start bringing them out and playing them.
AI: Are audiences receptive to your music? Do you get paired with comparable bands if playing with others? Any "scene" to speak of in Chicago?
Corey: We do a pretty good job of winning over people at shows. We get a good response.
KC: It's not often that you can go out and see a good band. There are a lot of solid acts around the area. That's not us. I mean I remember when I would just go out to a venue without knowing who was playing, just to drink and get totally rocked by the band. Hasn't happened to me lately, but people often people tell me it happens to them when they see us. I even had these two awesome looking girls come up to me and tell me that one of our songs made them feel like having an orgasm. Needless to say I still talk with them both.
Daniel: Not too many people do what we do. And do it well.
Corey: We try to play with a lot of local bands but there are only a few spacerock bands in the Chicago area. It's not such a cohesive scene. There is a lot of the normal bullshit that goes on between bands, and we have found that a lot of the bands around here don't advertise, pass out flyers or even try to get the word out. If a band doesn't work for itself how are we supposed to work together. We try to pull the bands together, and it hasn't worked out with most so far. So we have started to spread it out regionally, and we've got a sister band called PAIK out of Toledo who we get together with. Those guys are great. It's always a good time with those guys.
Daniel: PAIK will advertise out here. They do their shit.
John: We do well with bands like Kill Hannah and My Scarlet Life. but they are in kind of a different genre. But they are all good kids. Their music complements us well.
AI: In the CD liner notes everyone is credited with playing "harmony rocket guitar manipulation". A private joke?
Corey: No, we had a guitar called a harmony rocket. We hooked it up to all our pedals, ran it through about nine... nine tracks or so, and every body....You Fool.
Daniel interrupting: We took a harmony rocket guitar, we took two cabinets and put them in a room, sealed it up, threw a microphone between the two of them and stuck the rocket on top of it and ran it through about 15 pedals probably and sat in the other room and manipulated it. Each of us doing a few tracks each. Hence the harmony guitar manipulation.
AI: I really liked the female vocalist on track 38. (40 tracks... silly boys!) Is she just a guest singer or can we expect more from her.
Corey: That's my sister, and we've worked with her in the past. She's done some backing vocals, but we have no plans to incorporate her. I think when we go back in the studio we may have some more female vocals. If that come up we have her as a resource. We know a lot of girls we'd like to try out. It's a good form of sexual leverage. Promise girls a spot on the album and you get some, you know. You can't really push that with my sister.
Daniel: I Can.
Corey: Well, Dan can
KC: You were pushing it with his sister?
Daniel: Oh Yeah (sarcasm)
AI: Any final news or future plans you'd like to share?
Corey:Just this Jerry... we are going to come out to whereever you live and rock out your town. Rape and Pillage America. We are going to trash hotel rooms and screw underage girls and do lots of drugs and...
KC: And the bands' going to finally let me breathe fire.
Adam: There will be no fire breathing what so ever.
Daniel: Don't forget the dancing girls on stage, Adam.
Adam: There will be no topless girls on the stage.
Corey: We are planning on doing the same. We are looking at tours, also get a label, record as much shit as we can. I think we have a lot in the wings. We are going to do some more electronic stuff, we are going to do some more experimental stuff, more noise stuff, and definitely bring back some of the structured stuff. Maybe search for that elusive hit, but we'll do it on our terms. We are definitely not conforming to anyone's idea of what a band should be or should not be, except our own. We live up to our own standard which is a high standard believe it or not. Doing more of the same.
KC: We've also got added to two compilations that get out nationally and have been approached to make a video. We've got the song and the idea for it. The producer loves the idea. Now all we have to do is wait for the weather to warm up cause it is going to be hot. At least they are.
John: Just expect to hear more from us. We will be coming to your town. Gonna roll a joint. Hang out. Listen to prog rock.
Everyone Laughs. For more information you can email Tom Spacey at firstname.lastname@example.org
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For more information you can email Tom Spacey at email@example.com