California Leanin'/Of Domes and Drones
Andy Duvall interview by Christopher Laramee
Carlton Melton's Photos of Photos LP was my most treasured musical discovery of 2012. State-wide guitars nuzzle up to drawling synths in the most galactic fashion, all underpinned by some of the finest pulsing percussion heard in quite some time. Bardo Pond, with whom they've shared a split 12" with on the AGITATED label out of the UK, is the closest reference point in terms of the dense gas released by these dudes. Check out the band's website at the bottom of the page for a look into their expanding sonic travels. These vets are NOT fucking around when it comes to blasting your skull clear open with some elevated JAMZ.
Thanks so much to Andy Duvall (drums/guitars) for taking some time over the Christmas holidays to give me the lowdown on the CM story thus far...
PSF: With "Dome Rock," could you explain the headspace or methodology behind these journeys y'all embark on when creating these tracks in the geodesic construct you jam and record in? And is the Dome still the focus point for Carlton Melton, or have you moved on?
AD: Dome rock- it's pretty simple. Our friend (and occasional guest musician) owns property in Northern California that includes a geodesic dome. One summer day in 2008, Rich Millman called me with the idea to drive up a truckload of amps, gear, and beer (among other goodies) and spend the weekend at the Dome, complete with a four-track Tascam recorder, one mic, and a box of cassette tapes. We found out that weekend that we HAD something; our unrehearsed, sloppy, off-the-cuff psychedelic jams and the Dome were a marriage made in heaven. That weekend was the birth of CARLTON MELTON. The Dome is the ultimate recording studio- I like to call it natural surround sound. Our jams just sound SO GOOD in there. Besides a couple 'live on the air' radio performances, we have never recorded elsewhere. We try to record up there twice a year; we are due for another trip very soon.
PSF: Could I have a quick recap of the band member's past and current music endeavors beyond CM? And is there an immutable hard-core bunch, as I see a bit of membership fluidity with certain releases?
AD: Rich and I played together in Zen Guerrilla for 13 years (1990- 2003). We always knew we would play music together again in some form or another- we have a special musical connection, it borders on telepathy. And now in CM, our bond is stronger than ever. Hell, we've been playing music together for 22 years now- that's nothing to sneeze at. I'm pretty sure it shows when you see us live. Clint Golden joined the band in December 2009, for our very first official gig. He's been a full-time member ever since. That is the live band- me, Rich, Clint. Rich plays guitar, synth, tape loops. I play guitar or drums, depending on the song. Clint plays bass guitar or drums, again, depending on the song. When we record, it's mainly the three of us. Brian (Dome owner) and our friend John play occasionally on any given jam; it's kind of a free-for-all when we do these weekend recording sessions. The final- and most recent- piece of the puzzle is John McBain (Monster Magnet, Hater, Wellwater Conspiracy) joining forces with us in 2012; he mixed, mastered, and added a little guitar/synth/etc. on our last two releases, the 'Smoke Drip' 12" and the Photos of Photos LP- both on Agitated records (UK). I'm honored to work/play with these guys!
PSF: Do you have any current individual or band fixations, musical or otherwise, that are blowing your mind(s) recently?
AD: I've always looked up to/loved Philadelphia's Bardo Pond- great people, great band. They have been the leaders of the psychedelic pack for 20 years now. Liverpool's Mugstar are kick-ass label mates; check them out if you haven't already. White Manna (Humboldt, CA) are amazing- check out their Holy Mountain release. I look forward to the highly anticipated, new My Bloody Valentine release- I hear it's coming out early '13. MBV have been one of my all-time favorite bands since first hearing/seeing them in '88. I also catch myself spinning all the earlier Grateful Dead studio LP’s quite a lot these days.
PSF: Having scanned some incendiary YouTube footage from across the past couple of years, this bunch obviously enjoys the heck out of playing live. Is it hard to climb those mountains regularly in a touring environment or is it always a gas? Does the improv element become way more important live to keeping things fresh? Or is that even a consideration?
AD: CARLTON MELTON is a different beast when we play live- definitely more aggressive than our recordings, probably because we have somewhat of an idea as to what we are going to do on stage. Whereas when we record, we haven't a clue as to where we are heading, so the recordings are more cautious(?)- it's total improv at the Dome. The improv does keep things fresh for the live shows, though by the time one of our 'jams' makes it to the set list, the song has solidified (there is a beginning and an end). When we play live, we mean it. Rich and I are in our mid-40's and we rock harder than most bands I see play, most of which have band members half our age. You gots to give it up to the people.
PSF: The first album you bought that really shook you. Discuss.
AD: Jimi Hendrix Smash Hits cassette. I remember being 13 years old, having just been introduced to the world of marijuana, and hearing this tape for the first time. My world changed that day. I'm sure I had heard Hendrix before that, but not while I was high. Stone Free, baby!
PSF: Tell me a bit about the scene in your neck of the woods right now. Is there a lot of cross pollination going on with other like-minded folks? It seems like it from here.
AD: There is definitely a lot of good psychedelic music coming out of the Bay Area/Northern CA region. So much so that I can't keep up with half of what's out there (remember, I'm 45- I don't go out to shows like I used to). I remember seeing Wooden Shjips' first show in SF (2008?) and thinking ‘wow, these guys are a breath of fresh air.’ That is when it started back up again. Psychedelia seems to come naturally around here- funny little mushrooms grow out of the ground all around here. Go figure.
PSF: Is Mid-To-Late still a going concern or is Agitated going to be releasing most of the future recordings?
AD: Mid-To-Late Records is alive and well; Rich and I started the label so we could release CM's first LP, pass it on.... The label is just taking a breather. We'll definitely release another record at some point, probably another split. Agitated Records (UK) is our home away from home; our dear friend Simon Keeler runs the label, loves our band, and keeps wanting to put out records by us. How can we say no?
PSF: And speaking of recordings to come, when can the great unwashed expect more jammage to arrive in the near future?
AD: I've heard rumor of a double vinyl bootleg release for Record Store Day 2013. Besides that, Rich and I are already going through Dome tapes, piecing together our next official Agitated release, to come out sometime in the new year. Also, our song “Photos of Photos" will be on the February(?) MOJO comp CD- a tribute to Pink Floyd. We are honored!
See http://www.carltonmeltonmusic.com/about.html for more info.
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