THE ACID KING OF NEW ENGLANDA feedback. A loop. A fuzz overload. A wah-wah-inflected solo and a beautiful melody. Put Connecticut's Wayne Rogers in any common place for an inspired rock & roll guitar player and you'll find him doing uncommon things. His unique chord progressions put him in a place of his own, where his lethargic voice soars freely, mapping the space of songs of Magic Hour, Major Stars, Crystalized Movements, Vermonster, and his solo recordings. All of this music deserves to catch the ear of broader audiences.
Interview by Jorge Luis Fernández
Rogers is a true American maverick, and someday he will be recognized for the pioneering homemade stuff he has been doing since he formed Crystalized Movements (with drummer Ed Boyden) in the late seventies. For decades, Rogers has been experimenting with song formats, integrating both the instrumental freakouts that make up most contemporary psychedelic music and the folky noise hybrids associated with the free-folk movement.
In addition, Rogers is a consistent advocate of the D.I.Y. ethic. Since the release of Crystalized Movements' Mind Disaster, nearly all of his records have been released through his Twisted Village label. At his magnificent Twisted Village record store, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Rogers sells Krautrock, South American psych rock, Japanese noise, European improve, and all kind of equally impressive stuff.
PSF: Crystalized Movements still surprises people with its wide range of influences: from sixties psychedelic and garage rock to killer rock and new wave. It was an unorthodox psychedelic band and an unlikely part of the burgeoning indie scene. Were you viewed as old-time revivalists? Do you think CM encouraged many punk and postpunk musicians to embrace the psychedelic legacy?
I'm not sure what we were viewed as at the time.... We were certainly not sixties revivalists. That was the turf of the Fuzztones, Chesterfield Kings, and the like, [where] any influence post 1966 was frowned on. Certainly long tracks and guitar solos were not allowed in either the sixties retro or punk/indie worlds at the time. You could get away with it if you were Max Creek or something, but that wasn't really our crowd. Mind Disaster was really badly received when it came out in 1983, apart from a handful of record obsessives. Byron Coley and Edwin Pouncey were very kind in print, though, so word slowly got around. There was really no audience for a record like that at the time. But yeah, lots of musicians have told me over the years that that record turned their heads in another direction, which is nice. Poor souls (laughs).
PSF: Also, CM preceded the brief fad of British neopsychedelia at the beginning of the nineties, with bands such as the Bevis Frond, Sun Dial, Banco De Gaia, and Porcupine Tree. Do you think you have something in common with them?
Maybe some common influences, but I think our take on them is different.
PSF: Can you briefly describe the New England rock scene at the time when you started?
Crystalized Movements started in Connecticut in 1979 and didn't move to Boston until 1992, so I don't know much about the Boston scene from then. I CAN tell you that nothing was happening in CT.
PSF: When did you establish the Twisted Village label and record store? Have you benefited from having constant access to all the psychedelic stuff being made around the world?
Twisted Village label started around 1982, when we were first putting together Mind Disaster. The store started in 1996. I was always pretty saturated with the psych stuff, but the store helped open my ears to plenty of other things... dubstep, library music, girl groups, lot of seventies Euro improv dudes (Mario Schiano, Giorgio Gaslini, Massimo Urbani, etc.), all kinds of things I knew nothing about.
PSF: During the eighties, how was your relationship with groups who belonged to the post-Big Star, so-called Paisley Underground movement, as represented by somewhat different bands like the dB's and Game Theory?
I liked a lot of those bands... the Stamey/Holsapple dB's especially, plus bits of the LA Paisley Underground scene. I have a gut negative reaction to anything self-consciously psychedelic... the "cosmic colors of your mind" kinda shit, which a lot of those bands really played into. But there was good stuff... first Rain Parade single, when they were all Byrds-y. Always liked that first Bangles album too!
PSF: In the early nineties, you worked with ex-Galaxie 500's Damon Krakowski and Naomi Yang in Magic Hour. How did you come in contact with them?
Crystalized Movements opened for them two or three times, at their request. We were always amazed when somebody liked us. It was rare in those days.
PSF: In perspective, if you listen to, let's say, MH's No Excess Is Absurd after Mind Disaster it seems like you were influenced by the mellow, slowcore sound of Galaxie 500. Do you agree, or were you just looking for new ways to develop your music?
I liked their band, but that stuff really didn't have much of an influence. It was more of an opening up of possibilities, particularly in being able to bring more delicate material in without it being beaten to a pulp. Though Damon and Naomi were good at that too when duty called (laughs).
PSF: The early nineties seemed to be a pretty busy period for you. Besides working with Magic Hour, you also released the vinyl LP's The Seven Arms of the Sun and Ego River, which I think expanded your view of psychedelia. I wonder if those records demanded a lot of effort from you, or if they simply flowed along with what seems to be a richly creative time.
That was a period when we bought our own studio equipment (a used 8-track Tascam 38, still working) and were renting a place way out in the country (the infamous trailer), so that was definitely a time of being able to try a lot of things for the first time. And without having to watch the studio clock...
PSF: Your guitar playing is so unique that I always have a hard time tracing your roots. You play with melodies that display lots of harmony, and in a soaring way that could have some similarities with Steve Hillage and some Neil Young guitar playing, but you also make some mellow drones of which I can't find anything to relate to--which is great, indeed. How did you achieve your style of playing, and who are your main influences?
Early influences were Otis Rush, Buddy Guy... lots of the fifties Chicago guys and people they directly affected: Eric Clapton's and Jeff Beck's work with the Yardbirds above just about anything. John Coltrane and Kaoru Abe after that. Anything with equal parts construction and catharsis.
PSF: Beside having your usual dose of good songs, your last solo album, Constant Displacement, is rather amazing since it introduces us to a feral rock side, particularly in your singing, that we'd never heard before. At the same time, the album is wide in scope, and it has some of your best ballads ever. Which kind of music and what creative process set you in motion for making this record?
Man, I can't really remember what I was thinking when I made that! (laughs). It's been a long time. I remember really trying to change the guitar sounds on each track, and trying to write different types of songs than what the Major Stars were doing at the time, but what might have sparked anything in particular I can't really say. That record did very much point the direction to the current Major Stars sound. I formed a band called Wayne Rogers Unit, which did a brief tour around the time Drag City reissued it, and really liked playing the shorter and more "rock" kinda stuff. We changed drummers and added a singer, and that was the new Major Stars.
Also see Drag City's Wayne Rogers discography page
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