“That unhinged and out of control nature that true psych music has. That’s what really takes you to another world.” – Siobhán Kane talks to Dave W. of White Hills.
White Hills started out as a solo project by guitarist Dave W., and later expanded to include bass guitarist Ego Sensation, and drummer Lee Hinshaw. Their weird, psychedelic, spaced-out sound caught the attention of Julian Cope, who put out their first record They’ve Got Blood Like We’ve Got Blood (2005) and who has been something of a champion ever since.
Since then they have released several records, have various solo side projects, and are as shape-shifting as they are prolific. Their new record (their third for Thrill Jockey) is another feedback-infused chapter in their sprawling novel; messy, interesting, expansive; and with help from the brilliant Martin Bisi, they continue their ascent. Siobhán Kane talks to Dave W.
Frying on this Rock has so much packed into a short space – were you trying something slightly different this time around?
I wouldn’t say its pop, but it is definitely a much more straight ahead vibe. We always try to do something different.
How much input did Martin Bisi have on this record, and how do you find working with him?
Working with Martin was great. We wanted to achieve a sonic quality we haven’t had before. Employing Martin was how we achieved that. He gave his two cents worth of suggestions here and there, but not that much really.
I mention Martin because he seems to be a perfect choice to help you realise the sound you were going for, particularly because he has such interesting experiences working with musicians who have an acute creativity and loose spontaneity like Herbie Hancock, and Swans.
Yes, that’s true, and both Ego and I have worked with him before on other projects we’ve been involved in.
Psychedelia has always seemed to be a musical touchstone for you – when did the fascination with it begin, and who are some of your favourite musicians from that world? I can really see elements of PiL in there, I wonder have you been able to see their reformed incarnation yet? I have heard quite good things about those concerts.
From a very young age actually. When I was a child going through my parents record collection to be exact. My dad was a jazz guy, but my Mom was the one that picked out the odd balls in the collection like Jimi Hendrix and the Jefferson Airplane. At that time what intrigued me the most were the whacked out and colourful covers.
I’ve always been drawn to “out there” music. I consider many things to be psychedelic that others might not, bands like Flipper or Black Humour. Both rose out of the San Francisco punk scene but somehow had that psych sensibility to them. That unhinged and out of control nature that true psych music has. That’s what really takes you to another world.
PiL is definitely another band that had that going for them, especially on Metal Box which is one of my most beloved albums. I did see them on their last tour and they were fantastic.
There always seems something loose and organic about the way you approach things, even in terms of collaborations, like with Shazzula – I suppose when you are open to magic, it somehow happens, sometimes – what was the experience like of meeting Shazzula and having her collaborate with you?
It was fairly natural. We met in Belgium when we were on tour. At that time she passed on to me the latest Aqua Nebula Oscillator LP, which I really liked. I then asked her to join us on stage and that was that.
I remember reading that you have an obsession with guitar pedals and synths – is it an expensive hobby and what is some of your favourite equipment to use?
It definitely can be! I’m big into this company out of Arizona called Homebrew Electronics. They make the best distortion/fuzz pedals I have ever come across. I own quite a few of their creations.
How is work on your solo release coming along? Did you feel you were working on things that in some ways didn’t necessarily fit White Hills?
It’s an ongoing process. There is no deadline for it so it’s taking a bit longer than others things I’ve done. I think any of the stuff I have going now could fit in with White Hills. It’s more that I just wanted to be a loner and get something going without others involved.
Also how is the project with Antronhy coming along? What has gone into that?
We have one album finished and almost enough material for a second one done as well. We are shopping the first one around right now and hope to find someone to release it soon. It’s been a great experience. Ant and I are two peas in the same pod. Working with him is always a blast.
What have been some of your best and worst live experiences?
Some of the best have been opening for The Flaming Lips and Sleep. Last years Roadburn festival and Supersonic were stand out moments as well. Bad experiences…I like to let those go, as dwelling on the negative is something that I don’t like to do.
Do you get to go to many concerts, and what have been some of the best in recent memory, and records, also?
Not as many as I’d like to these days. I saw Graveyard recently, they were good. The Psychic Paramount always blow me away. Special albums…there are so many. A couple that come to mind are Skip Spence’s Oar and Hawkwind’s Warrior in the edge of Time.
I loved your contribution to the Hawkwind tribute – Be Yourself – what does that band mean to you?
They have been a great influence to me. An old friend – Dave Vlark turned me onto them some moons ago.
I believe you quite like Virgin Prunes, which was a pleasant surprise, considering their origins – where did you stumble upon them and what is it about them that you like?
They are fucking amazing and weird. That’s what drew me in. Talk about a psychedelic band. These guys are part of what I like to call the “unseen psychedelia”. I came across them in the same way I have found out about many bands which is spending too much time in record stores thumbing through albums. It was the cover of If I Die, I Die that brought me in at first. Then I was sold upon hearing it.