Here’s part 3 of the “influences on early Six Organs of Admittance” list. This one features folks who were making music just before and at the same time as Six Organs (for the most part at least, or, at least not 60’s psych-folk stuff). I think all the music here will be pretty familiar to anyone who was ordering records from catalogs (Forced Exposure, Ajax, Blackjack, Roadcone, etc) in the 90s. That’s pretty much the milieu in which Six Organs developed. As such, this will all be pretty old hat to you folks about my age who were into this stuff. But I’d like to tip my hat to some people I later became friends with or music that perhaps doesn’t usually get tied to Six Organs. There was an attempt years ago to say where Six Organs existed in relationship to other bands. Those attempts were nearly always wrong. The music below is where I put Six Organs. These people inspired me to make Six Organs sound like Six Organs.
Tower Recordings – Spirit of Love. Let’s start off with a cover of the last song on the last list from one of the best bands and the perfect bridge between folk and avant tendencies. This record came out on Audible Hiss, which was just a great label. A lot of the folks who were in Tower Recordings are making even more majestic and inspired music since they broke up – MV & EE, Metal Mountains, PG Six: all gorgeous.
Joshua Burkett – Working Day Routine. I think a case could be made that Josh is the secret heart of the avant-folk scene from the early 90s all the way through today. I remember ordering Life Less Lost with it’s handmade packaging and just being totally mesmerized by his vision. If to create whole worlds that disclose new modes of existence is the goal of music and art than Josh hits the bull’s eye with a world that discloses a beauty not many knew was possible.
I have to play one other piece from Josh that shows just how awesome he is. He told me that this was not planned. Apparently he was just going to do an acoustic set but the weather started up so he let it take over. Perhaps the inversion of Joe Jones’ solar music.
Amps For Christ – Sweet William and Lady Margaret. This was sort of a driving record for me. I had it on repeat for a very long time around the time of Dark Noontide. I think the melodies really seeped into what I was doing at the time. Amps for Christ is of course related to Man is the Bastard though Henry Barnes. That definitely added to my feelings of the possibilities of new folk as anarchic trajectory. I was lucky to be able to play with Amps for Christ in LA a long time ago and they were killer. The record itself goes into some more static and noisy moments, as might be expected from a fellow who was in Man Is The Bastard, but there were also a handful of these sublime folk tunes as well. As beautiful today as back then.
Ghost – Forthcoming from the Inside. The first few Ghost records on PSF had such a huge influence on Six Organs it’s hard to imagine what I’d be doing now if it wasn’t for them. I actually remember when I first heard that they were moving from PSF to Drag City. I was such a hardcore fan I remember actually thinking the term “sellout.” I know I know. Then their record Lama Rabi Rabi came out and it blew my mind and I thought, hmm, maybe this Drag City label isn’t so bad after all (I kid!). This track is from their 2nd record, which is a bit more slick than the first but the songwriting is so goddamn good. This song kind of reached a new level of intensity live as well.
Black Vial – Someone’s Dying 19:4 (To You). Thanks must be given to Scott Derr of Blackjack records, Monoshock, etc for turning me on to this record. Blackjack was a catalog I often ordered from after my band Plague Lounge played a show in SF with Monoshock and Liquorball. Scott actually called me up at work and told me I needed to pick up this LP that he had just got from Germany, wrapped in black electric tape. I was not disappointed. Definitely the most depressing record I have or will ever own. Years later, Clint at De Stijl would put out a couple more Black Vial LPs (which, BTW are also incredible). Clint actually tried to facilitate a collaboration between me and the main dude from Black Vial, who said he was into it. Then I realized that even in my darkest moments, I don’t think I am bummed out enough to make music with The Black Vial. This has connections with the 39 Clocks scene, which is also killer.
Tomokawa Kazuki – Pistol. Obviously I was pretty into the PSF label. The two “folk guys” on the label were Mikami Kan and Tomokawa Kazuki. Both showed the way that one could be quite free and play folk music at the same time. I once asked Batoh, from Ghost, how he felt about Kan Mikami. He replied that he liked Mikami a lot but that he drank a lot, maybe too much. I said yeah, but I heard Kazuki Tomokawa drank a lot too. Batoh replied, “ahhh, but he’s a gentleman…” Couldn’t find the original recording of this song on youtube, but here’s a live version of one of my favorites.
Kan Mikami – Live Well hell. I can’t NOT play Mikami now. He’s one of the best dudes there is. Just in style, music, performance. Guitar wise, he’s so unique and fluid, like a watery octopus all over the neck. He actually had a very interesting career on Japanese major labels that he talks about in a great interview in Opprobrium magazine (look up his song BANG). He’s also an actor, maybe being most familiar to western audiences for being in Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (with David Bowie). Might also be worth noting that Haino has said Mikami is the only one he will let sing in one of his bands (they started the band Vajra together). Again, I can’t find the tracks on youtube that I used to listen to over and over, but any live Mikami Kan is good Mikami Kan. In this video he’s throwing some killer rock poses. Just generally the coolest guy on the planet.
Charalambides – Think About. For me, this band really defined a certain way that records should be written, recorded and put out. Totally beautiful and focused. Sometimes hand-made. The band is technically still around in a sort of half frozen/half thawed state. Tom has himself said they move slowly. Folks from this band are still making music. It’s actually some of the best music they’ve ever made (even just in these few months with Tom’s Carter’s Long Time Underground LP on 3 Lobed being a fantastic slow building refraction of guitar possibilities and Heather Leigh, who joined after the record I’m putting here, is putting out a killer cosmic-avant-distorto pedal steel LP called I Abused Animal on Ideologic Organ). This track opens Charalambides Market Square LP. There’s a story behind the sample at the beginning but you’ll have to look that up yourself. I used to turn the lights off when people came over and play this song. As you can imagine, I really knew how to party back then.
Sun City Girls – The Venerable Song (The Meaning of Which Is No Longer Known) – As much as Torch of The Mystics opened up my mind, it was this record and Valentines For Matahari that really lit up the way for me. I mean, even for the record I released in Feb of this year, Hexadic, I’d say the Valentines for Matahari guitar assassination squad sound weighed heavy on my playing. But speaking of playing music in the dark, this song was another one that always sounds great with the lights off. This one and side A of Jack’s Creek. I remember turning people on to the Sun City Girls in my hometown with mix tapes and so then people went out to buy their newest one, which happened to be Jack’s Creek at the time. Maaaaan were they bummed. For me, I still think Jack’s Creek is a centerpiece for SCG (“Just ain’t no explaining that smell. No, that smell real bad…”). Back to the Venerable Song: yeah, I think I ripped off this guitar riff in a certain way with a song I still play live. I didn’t ever realize it until one time I was playing in Portland, Oregon and Rick Bishop (SCG guitar player) was in the audience and I thought, “oh shit, i think I ripped off Venerable Song.” There’s a great live video of them doing this with Alan in Kabuki make-up as well. As with all the tunes on this list, I can still listen to it over and over. So come on guys, where’s the vinyl reissue of the Majora catalog? A great tune for your asshole neighbors to hear at top volume through the walls as well. “Goddamn it! They’re havin’ one of them Satan worships over there again!”
Sun City Girls – Cloaven Theater – I’ll just post this whole video since I watched it about 10 billion times as a youth. Later they put out a series of videos that you can watch on youtube, but this was the first one. If you just want to check out Venerable song, it starts at 34:36. This should be just straight up mandatory watching for anyone playing music with a guitar. In a way, it was sort of my musical school. My friends and I used to watch it over and over, rewinding that first jam where they stop on a dime without even looking at each other. “How the fuck did the do that?” Maybe communication only THREE brothers could have.
Organum – Renunciate. We’re starting to get into the “secret weapons” part of influences here. Organum and Andrew Chalk were the main thrust and spark behind the drones and ambiance on early Six Organs. In fact, part of the mission of the band early on was to try to wed folk forms with a drone world that was not new age, but in your face and immediately textural. I listened to this particular Organum CD quite a bit.
Current 93 – The Inmost Light Itself – This band sort of goes hand in hand with Organum for me in the way that Steven Stapleton’s production actually DID wed those folk and drone elements. All The Pretty Horses, Thunder Perfect Mind and Of Ruine Or Some Blazing Starre formed a perfect triad for me and many people at the time. Not much to say that hasn’t already been said before except that I feel Michael Cashmore, the guitar player for Current 93, is massively under rated. His sense of composition definitely leaked into the way I construct progressions. This particular song just reminds me of rain and rain and rain in Humboldt County. There is a certain way Tibet sings “Too Fucking Late” that always made this song have that extra bit of emotional causticity within their catalog.
Loren Connors – Sorrow In The House. Loren Connors is one of my favorite guitar players of all time and Hell’s Kitchen Park is one of the greatest records that’s ever been made. From the moment I heard the first chord of that record, I was a fan. The idea that Loren has never and probably will never get the credit he deserves really bums me out. Essentially, what we have here is a John Fahey situation. It’s too sad to fully follow that thought out so let me put it this way: Remember all of those musicians who were playing like John Fahey in 2000 and how he was referenced in all those reviews as the king of acoustic guitar when he was still alive and probably could have used the attention? No? Me neither. Loren is alive and making beautiful music right now. The fact that he isn’t recognized as the treasure he is NOW is fucking tragic. Go see him live if you can.
Wayne Rogers – After The Night. Not a lot of solo Wayne Rogers on youtube. I’ve always said, someone needs to release a box set of Wayne’s solo work. In my mind, I imagine it having the same effect as when the first Nick Drake box set came out. I mean seriously, can’t Burger records do a cassette box of all his solo work? I don’t think that is too far out in terms of aesthetics and maybe we could get more people into this soloholic. Ah, the perfect world. Here’s some Wayne Rogers for ya (incedently/indecently, I just covered a Wayne Rogers song for a comp coming out soon. I sent it to Wayne and he said, “you got the words wrong.” ha). His solo stuff with acoustic guitar is killer and this has a little acoustic on it. Before exploding into electric. As he will…
No Neck Blues Band – Cosmos. I couldn’t find the song I wanted to put on this – a song that sounded like they were kicking a wrench around on a cement floor for a whole side of the record. So I’ll put this track. After the incredible vinyl releases on their own sound@one imprint they eventually released this beautiful double CD of appropriately named “cosmic” drone jams. I don’t know, NNCK just always kicked open the doors of strangeness and inspired me to make music. I was also a huge fan of their related K Salvatore project. But this track was definitely on repeat for me.
Richard Youngs & Simon Wickham Smith – A Song for the Spanish Anarchists. Safe to say Richard Youngs has always been and will always be a hero of mine. Later he would explore more traditional (for him that is) folk forms, but this record, Ceaucescu, was my introduction to him. His musical partner at the time was Simon Wickham-Smith and this is still one of the most beautiful and strange drone-chant-weirdo records to have ever come out. Hard to really sum up Richard’s influence on me and the underground. Another overlooked and under appreciated musician. Also, probably the nicest guy in the world. I was lucky to be able to interview him for Bomb magazine a while ago. Long live Richard Youngs and all who sail with him.
This Heat – Fall of Saigon. I think I should wrap this list up though it seems it could keep going. Maybe there will have to be a part 2 for modern music too. Maybe not. But I’ll end with this, my favorite This Heat song. This song hugely influenced the vocal styling of Six Organs in terms of the low/hi double tracks vocals and trying to create a specific melody over a drone. Still one of my favorite songs of all times. The version on the BBC record is killer too. Hell, I’ll put both. The song is that good.