Monday, 27 January 2014

Interview with Black Majik Acid

Black Majik Acid was one of the best new bands in the stoner / doom / psychedelic genre to come out of the States in 2013.  Their six song debut has become a staple here in the Paranoid bunker, especially over the course of the last couple months.  Though I never reviewed the album on the blog, I did share my thoughts about it at this link.  The Sacramento trio's sound is raw as a rashy open sore, heavily influenced by Electric Wizard, Sleep and early Black Sabbath, but rawer and more experimental.  The self-titled debut is a MUST-HAVE so I thought I'd treat Paranoid readers to an interview with the main man behind the band rather than a dry review.  He goes by the name of Sun Dawg and he's passionate about what he does.  Thankfully, he gave me one of the best interviews I've done here.  I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did ...

Black Majik Acid has a slightly complicated history.  Can you tell Paranoid readers how the band came to be where it is today?

I played bass for a doom band called Ungoliant in 2011, and put a lot of time and effort into contributing riffs and song ideas to the band. I was coming up with a lot of cool stuff and wanted to nurture this flow of ideas to get what I could of it before the creative well ran dry and writers block set in.

The day soon came though, when Ungoliant would fizzle out before the majority of my song ideas and riffs could be explored and brought to fruition. I was left with all this cool riffage and ideas I’d written that I really liked. So I continued to nurture the flow of doomy riffs that seemed to spill whenever I sat with a guitar for an hour or so.

At the time I was listening to a lot of Electric Wizard’s Dopethrone, Sleep’s Holy Mountain, and drawing a lot of inspiration from my love of early Black Sabbath.

Later, as I continued to develop ideas, i recorded basic rough sketches of these song ideas and emailed them to the former Ungoliant guitarist Hal. Surprisingly, Hal liked them, and encouraged me to continue writing and recording. That was when I decided these may actually be good songs and I began to pursue the idea of forming a band around these song concepts.

I've become somewhat of an elitist when it comes to what bands I allow to heavily influence BMA. Though I listen to a wide variety of different types of music, this band is specific to a particular type of doom that I am most interested in expanding on. Wizard, Sabbath, Witch, and a few others. There aren’t a lot though. In an interview with the band Graveyard, I was told, the singer was asked what bands would he consider to be the best today, and his alleged response was; “I don’t care about other bands.” That resonates with me at an innermost level. I feel the same way. There are bands that are main staples as influential, sure, but Black Majik Acid has taken on a life of its own. That entity that is Black Majik Acid is the driving force of its own success. Us as band members really have become but vessels of its bidding. It's kinda creepy. The songs write themselves. That is how the band has come to be where it is today, if that makes any sense.

And how’s the search for a permanent bassist going?

Well, we still haven’t gotten that figured out yet. The original BMA bassist Cheryl will be filling in for our upcoming show with Lord Dying(!!!), and it appears she may want to stick around. She’s pretty badass so it would be rad. Also, another badass bassist; former bass player for Ghuilhiem messaged us this morning that he is interested. We have 3 other great candidates as well that would like to audition. Its going to be a difficult challenge figuring out how to best handle the dilemma before us.

You have a pretty unusual recording technique.  Tell me about it.

Ha! Yes… When I was hashing out the songwriting details of ‘Charge of the Witch Goddess’, I decided to record the guitar part with a small handheld digital recorder, then play it back through my shitty vocal PA and video myself playing the drums to it using a small Flipshare camera. I put the video into windows moviemaker, and dropped in the guitar mp3 track, synched it up manually and played it back. It sounded decent, so I recorded the bass and vocals with the digital recorder and manually dropped each individual track into windows movie maker as well, synced it up to the video, essentially using windows movie maker to mix the entire recording. It came out much better than the previous demos. It was a total accident and I had no idea it would even work. It’s a poor man’s music studio. I’ve gotten better at it through trial and error, and some songs were a much more complicated process than Charge of the Witch Goddess, but yeah, that’s how I’ve recorded the 7 BMA tracks. 

So, the way I understand it, the self-titled album is all you: guitars, bass, drums, vocals, everything, and it was recorded as a recruiting device.  Is that true?  And did you have any desire once the album was released and the positive reaction started flooding in to continue along that solo path? 

That is true. Once I realized Charge of the Witch Goddess came out good enough to get the basic band idea across to potential band mates, that became the goal. Not having solid song recordings caused a lot of grief turmoil for our previous band line up. I’m not well with articulating the creative process that is happening within my cranial dome, and its difficult to convey the cursed vision I have. That lack of clarity caused division amongst us and broke us apart. The only way I knew to convey the vision effectively for future endeavours was to do the fucking shit myself, then show it to others and say; “this is kinda what I wanna do, are you into that kinda thing, and if so, let's fucking jam!!!!” 

BMA is a live band experience, that can only be done in a group setting. Its actually better live. I don’t know why that is. So for the most part there was never any strong desire to keep it as a solo project. What it did do, was define the sound more, clearing up any false conceptions of where BMA could or couldn’t go. The idea is specific to the doom genre, and the recordings speak that better than I could try to explain it. Also, it became clear that BMA is meant to be a lo-fi sound. That was established as well.

One of my favorite things about the self-titled album is the loose feel to it, especially on guitar.  How will playing with a band affect that loose quality on future releases?

I like this question a lot. Thank you for noticing. Bass is my main instrument. So all this guitar riffing has been strange for me. My riffs spawn from a bass playing perspective, which I think lends to this loose feel. My guitar methods are unconventional, and though bass is my main instrument, the thought of a conventional guitar player coming in and playing these riffs just doesn’t sit well with me. It seems that an unconventional approach to guitar may be what sets us apart from the so many other doom bands, and that is what is important, maybe most important to the success of BMA. I do a lot of weird shit that is likely not attempted much, if at all, with guitar players. I’ve had people complain about my guitar methods, thinking that I am not intentionally going for such a raw, gritty sound, when in fact that is exactly what I want. The people I'm jamming with now are starting to catch on and feel a little more comfortable with it, and there are times I may have to compromise that for the sake of keeping BMA together, but the understanding is there, and preserving those qualities have begun to become the collective goal. Also, the drummer Tyler’s own eccentricities will lend to further developing the overall goal, and whoever plays bass, the same, I believe.

It seems you’ve only just written a new song (“Black Moon Empress”).  How often do you engage in writing sessions and is it a solo or group activity?

Ha, well, Black Moon Empress was inspired by an acquaintance I know who plays violin. We talked about doing a psych jam half way through a set that was designed to feature her violin skills. So I spent an hour coming up with a riff on the bass that I really liked in the key of G as requested. Later at rehearsal I showed it to Cheryl and Tyler and us three figured out all the details, changes etc… I have no life outside of BMA and a select few other interests, so I spend lots of free time hashing out riffs, memorizing and recording them, while my friends are all out partying etc..So I did that with Black Moon Empress. Luckily I got the bandmate’s approval, they gave some input, we all squared up and agreed we liked it.

Ironically, the violin player never showed to rehearse it, and we realized, whether or not she follows through, we just added a killer new song to our list, which is always good. It seems a lot of my stuff spawns from working on something with someone, that person or people flaking or moving on, and me ending up with a badass riff or song that just came from some kind of lame situation.. I don’t know, ha, that’s weird how often that seems to be the case.

When do you consider a song to be written (finished)?

I just saw a quote that hit home with me concerning this question. I’ll have to paraphrase; it said something like-“ a piece of art is never finished”. That makes the most sense to me. Right or wrong, I don’t follow formula, and instead try to listen to my own intuition much of the time. I do try to take constructive input from others. Sometimes though, people are so caught up in formula and rules, and I want to avoid that. I guess if it sounds like a full song than I leave it alone.

You recently played your first show.  I had a question worked out about the Black Majik Acid live experience where I was going to ask about a light show with heated oils projected onto the band.  Then I saw the videos!  Perfect!  How would you say the first gig went?  And what are your future plans for gigs and presentation?

That was BMA’s 3rd show. It was the 1st show with the new drummer Tyler and I. The bass player we thought we had, who had committed to play 2 shows, wasn’t able to follow through on the commitment. Otherwise I wouldn’t have booked to play them, but it was too late. Therefore, we just decided it best to do it as a two piece so as not to flake on BMA’s commitment.

We did pretty decent considering. That crazy light show saved our ass!!! Otherwise it was somewhat of a nightmare. The sound guy really fucked us. We were rushed to set up, had no time to sound check, and had to play our songs fast to avoid getting cut off before we could finish our set. I could not hear any vocals in my monitors, his mic placement caused the drums to bleed into my vocal mic, creating a faint yet constant feedback throughout the set, and  it was pretty insane. One thing with me, if I cant hear my vocals coming through the monitors, the vocals are gonna sound like shit. For what it was we did a decent job, but that is the last time a sound guy rushes me. 

In the future, to avoid that insanity, we will keep a set shorter to give us more time to set up and avoid anxiety caused by being rushed, for sure. More new songs definitely!! Playing the newer songs like CЯEATURA and Black Moon Empress. The liquid light thing would be really awesome to incorporate into shows, the thing is that that  is SO much work, and nobody wants to compensate for that. The dude voluntarily came out for free to do it, but needed BMA to help set up and tear down, so it was twice as much work than the work it takes to perform as a band. I don’t believe in overachieving, so we wont be overexerting ourselves either, haha. If the liquid lights happen, fuck yeah!! Otherwise, we’ll just stick to the music.
When was the song “CЯEATURA” for the split with Merlin recorded?  It has a more experimental feel to it.  Do you plan on more releases like this one?

That was recorded in mid September, to be released on Halloween day. I had a lot of fun throwing that one together. I personally was really pleased with it and would love to delve more into that style. It is heavily influenced by the Electric Wizard song ‘Flower of Evil’, but much more influenced by the movie; Beyond the Black Rainbow (!!! That's exactly what it reminds me of!!! Nailed it! - LK). I literally picked up the guitar immediately after being blown away by that movie with the intent of creating a riff that was an audible representation capturing the essence of the movie’s entirety. That main riff came instantaneous, and I fell in love with it on the spot. It embodied to me, the whole of what I had just experienced visually. I definitely plan to put out a lot more of that kind of sound, yes. It took the BMA idea in a different direction, but I felt it stayed true to the BMA signature sound, and just let it happen.

Though the self-titled album is very much a “current” release, and without making any promises, when might the world hear more from Black Majik Acid?

Haha..I did an interview with that crazy rad dude Tony Maim (Hi Tony! - LK), and talked about how we’d be putting more out soon, and lately realized that was a pretty unrealistic statement, so am reluctant to attempt to accurately predict anything, I'm only hopeful it will be soon. I have 5-6 almost full song ideas ready to go. It's just with live shows coming up, recruiting new members, along with all the other band shit that comes up, who knows when we’ll take that needed action. I’d say within the year these other songs will be out. To be fair, that new song Black Moon Empress, written unexpectedly, is done. We keep track of most  new riffs that morph from out of the cosmos into our band creative space too, and have tons of ideas backed up. But, to guess, I’d say, expect something substantial before 2015 !!!

You guys that do these blogs are fucking awesome and don’t get half the credit you deserve! It keeps bands like us stoked to push forward!! You guys fucking rock!!! Thank you!!!

Hey, thanks for taking the time to talk with me, whatever the future holds for Black Majik Acid, I’ll be watching and listening eagerly.

Check out the incredible Black Majik Acid on the player below and follow through on these links:

Black Majik Acid on facebook
Black Majik Acid interview on Black Insect Laughter
Black Majik Acid on youtube
Black Majik Acid on
Black Majik Acid on Soundcloud
Black Majik Acid on Grooveshark

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