Author: Moorman, Trent
Date published: November 25, 2010
THE BLACK ANGELS: PHOSPHENE PILLAGING
Black Angels singer Alex Maas has an ear-piercing scream. It's a demonically controlled vocal shot that hits a note and conveys utter chaos and pain. In person, he has a sedated aura about him, with a hat usually pulled low over his expressionless eyes. His scream perplexes: How does such a seemingly calm man make such a sound? What section of his throat and chest cavity does this scream come from? Does he have a wraith in there? Is Kublai Khan pillaging a foreign city, in his throat? Possibly. But it's a psychedelic Khan, who listens to the Velvet Underground and the Doors as he pillages.
The Black Angels' third full-length album, Phosphene Dream, plunders 1960s drone and garage rock in the best way. It's a dark and driving collection that will conquer and occupy your headspace, led by the even 4/4 swipings of drummer Stephanie Bailey. The music is shrouded, and guitarist Christian Bland casts sharp, reverbed lines out from the shadows to escort and fl ank the songs in their movement. The Austin-based band's sound is veiled yet directed, on edge, like a carriage being driven up a narrow mountain road at night. Bland spoke; no wraiths were present.
Do you ever get tired of the term "psychedelic" being used to describe your music?
Humphry Osmond, who created the word, said, "To fathom hell or soar angelic, just take a pinch of psychedelic." I think it's pretty fitting for our music. However, I think the word gets thrown around too loosely nowadays, which means we need to come up with a new description. Our music is "hypno-drone 'n' roll."
Have any members of the Black Angels ever peed in a pool?
Yes. Clear Lake Forest public pool near Houston, Texas, 1987 to 1998, at least twice a summer.
What percentage of the people in Texas are real cowboys? I'm talking shit-kicking, drunk-fi ghting, real-deal cowboys. Do you all get along with real cowboys?
I'd say 67 percent are cowboys. There are good cowboys and bad cowboys. We get along with both types. Some of their types don't get along with us. Most of them don't like our music; they prefer songs with titles like "Mine's Bigger Than Yours" and "Size Matters." Obviously, they're talking about their trucks.
Where did you record the album? Who produced?
We recorded at Sunset Sound in L.A. with Dave Sardy [Johnny Cash, Helmet, Holy Fuck, LCD Soundsystem] in May 2009. Stephanie played a Ludwig drum kit with the same kick-drum mic as John Densmore used on the fi rst Doors album.
The Doors' kick drum? Now it all makes sense.
Yes. Yes, it does...
Read the rest of this interview at the stranger.com/music. The Black Angels play Mon Nov 29 at Showbox at the Market.