Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Interview Zachary Fairbrother

I interviewed this rad dude through sad and silly gchat a couple of weeks ago. If you didn't already know from reading my F'n Blog, Zachary is the driving force behind Omon Ra II (R.I.P.) and his new hot joint LANTERN. He makes psych damaged Americana/Blues/Proto punk jams that'll burn your brain right outa yur skull. So here creeps, breath deep the mysteries of one Zachary Fairbrother...

MGM: Where are you from originally?

Zachary: I grew up in Musquodobit Harbour Nova Scotia The Boonies

MGM: Ah so full on Canadian. When did you move to Montreal?

Zachary: My father is American - so they got my citizenship when I was a baby. Summer 2009

MGM: What has been the biggest influence on your music and guitar playing

Zachary: Hard to say - that's a very broad question. Early on it was just guitarist that really influenced me. A lot of metal. Some of it very bad, but some of it has stuck. I am a big Hendrix fan and I am still amazed but what he did. I love listening to the live stuff because he really pushes the limits of his songs and his band. But after that I got sort of sick of guitar players and wanted to explore music not just guitar. I studied music in school; I have a degree in composition. I learned a lot about music that on my own I wouldn't have come across. Then I began to get very into experimental music - I got really into the drone artists like La Monte Young.

MGM: Really? Wouldn’t have expected that by just listening to your music.

Zachary: Haha ya. I know, it's pretty lo-fi and sloppy. Not often associated with Academia but I am a studied musician. From La Monte Young I really got into Sunn O))) - around the same time I started listening to both artists then I got back into Metal.

MGM: That connects the dots in my mind for Crude Vessels of Sound.

Zachary: But looked at it through a different lens, then I got into the Stooges and the Velvet Underground - but backwards. Through La Monte Young, because John Cale played with him.

Then recently I've gotten back into guitar playing I guess the confidence to do a track like crude vessels because it could be "wanky" to do a 7 minute guitar solo

MGM: Lets go back here, when did you start playing in bands?

Zachary: Basically since I started playing guitar when I was 14. I used to jam in friends, but it wasn't till I was around 22 that I was in a real band Omon Ra

MGM: …and that was started in Montreal?

Zachary: no Omon Ra was in Halifax. Omon Ra II Montreal

MGM: Ah ok, and how long was Omon Ra around for?

Zachary: For about 2 years

MGM: when was the decision to split up and form Omon Ra II?

Zachary: Never really was a decision. On my part it maybe wasn't the nicest choice on my part, I wanted to continue Omon Ra in Montreal, I was prepared to go on without Dan, even though it was both our band. I thought that wasn't morally right, so I just called it Omon Ra II. I was scared to lose what I did with Omon Ra, I guess worried to go on my own. Towards the end of Omon Ra we recorded to records, which are great, that were never released. One which Dan mostly wrote, which you can hear the continuation in his new band OmmaCobba, and one that I mostly wrote, which is when I got a fuzz pedal and new amp and wanted to rock out and make noise. So that's where the sound of Omon Ra II came.

Omon Ra had a show at Pop Montreal in 2009, and since Omon Ra was a two-piece we always had to find people to play with us I was living in Montreal, Dan was back in Halifax. He came up for the gig while I rehearsed the band. That band ended up being Omon Ra II. I said let's keep playing, as people were offering Omon Ra shows. So I just called in Omon Ra II. A reference to Amon Duul II

MGM: The only member to go on to Omon Ra II was you correct?

Zachary: You got it.

MGM: OK I was sooo confused before!

Zachary: haha yah. I don't think you are the only one the break wasn't very black and white. It just sort of happened. Chris D'eon played in Omon Ra II he also collaborated with us in Omon Ra.

He now plays as D'eon he has put out a couple of records on Hippos in Tanks.

MGM: Who were in the lineup of Omon Ra II at the time of the split tape with Dirty Beaches? I cant read the tiny write up in the tape.

Zachary: Me guitar and vocals, Chris D'eon Bass/Keys Emily Robb Bass/Tambourine Matthew Wilson Drums. Yah its very small, not my making

MGM: I love the cover of that tape. Where is it from?

Zachary: Alex (Dirty Beaches) did it - although I love the cover. It’s from vintage porn. I think like pin-ups I like the art too, I just have to admit it is very hard to read the insert

MGM: What did you record on for the tape?

Zachary: I used garage band for the most of it.

MGM: Wow really?

Zachary: Yah. No more than two tracks at a time. We record the drums and guitars then overdub everything else except the first track. I recorded that all myself but its garage band for the most part

I think maybe I put it through ableton at the end to make it super loud our side of the tape was over two times as loud as Dirty Beaches side. I wanted to it be loud, to pump through people's laptop speakers. To sort of crush all other sounds haha

MGM: I was attracted to “Jimmy Melvin”; I think that song is pure rock n roll genius

Zachary: Thank you. The tricky part was getting the mixing right, it is very blown out. But I wanted to make sure you could hear all the instruments

MGM: haha honestly I don't hear any keyboard!

Zachary: no keys on that track

MGM: That’s news to me, on the tape?

Zachary: we only added keys till after the tape

MGM: ahh ok cause I’ve seen this.

Zachary: haha ya

MGM: and was like whoa keys?

Zachary: I am always changing things up. Yah Chris is an amazing keyboardist

MGM: Insane keyboard solo!

Zachary: Ya. He loves Rick Wakeman, you can tell but he knows about all these music’s from around the world. So he plays all these cool modes. Very gifted

MGM: What kind of music is Omon Ra II? How do you define it?

Zachary: Good question - I think I had very different ideas of it, when I first started it I thought it would be more psychedelic and jamming. But then I got bored of that and it wasn't really the style of our drummer - and then I kind of wanted to do this sleazy garage band - so it turned more into that. Although, I don't know if I was ever really happy with how Omon Ra II sounded, I loved the stuff it just didn't quite click. I wanted to change the lineup up a bit but I just thought it might be better to start fresh so I created Lantern. And my ideas are so much more clearer. I feel refreshed and less tied down. I love playing with my new band that I've assembled down here in Philly.

MGM: Did Omon Ra II end and Lantern begin when you moved to Philly?

Zachary: Omon Ra II last show was in June. It was one of the best shows we played. Some personal stuff hit at the end of June, which decided that I was moving to Philly. I had a jam space so I began working on some tunes. I gave up Garage Band because I started to think it all sounded the same and picked up a 4 tape four track and started recording songs. I finished the 1st Lantern tape then I moved to Philly. I left Montreal in September

MGM: It seems to me that Lantern is a more "mature,” sound that Omon Ra II.

Zachary: Yah. That's fair. I certainly feel like it is. Although live we really try and bring a party atmosphere. We want people to dance, to sweat, to make it a visceral experience. It certainly is for the

We try and be like 'blues band' but with a punk bent. Like the Stooges or the Stones.

MGM: Lantern to me has this psych/punk - Americana/ roots music sound to it.

Zachary: Yah exactly, I love American music. I love the blues, early folk music. Its so dark and minimal - but sexy and you can dance to it. I love the fuzz though that of the Stooges. The swagger of the Stones, my favorite band probably, I am interested in mixing all of it together. To me they are all very similar.

MGM: Who is in your band now and what are their backgrounds?

Zachary: Emily, my partner, plays bass. She hasn't been playing music that long, but she picks up fast and we have very similar tastes in music, so we talk a lot about what we should play. We always are listening to music and talking, and analyzing - how do they do that? How do they get those sounds? Let's cover these songs. Our drummer - she is very punk. She loves the Cramps, The Stooges, The Damned, The Misfits, and the Ramones - but also a lot of the early blues/Americana stuff we like - like Bo Diddley and Etta James Hasil Adkins, Wanda Jackson, Elvis. I like to think of my music as dark. The lyrics are usually pretty dark. Whereas, Sophie our drummer, is very life affirming. So she approaches it from a different angle. She knows all the songs by all those artists too and she can lay down a groovy drumbeat that can get people moving. Jamming with them is a lot of fun and the ideas are always flowing. They are very excited so it makes me excited. Something that was very different than Omon Ra II.

MGM: What do you think of the music scene in Philly? I think you fit right in with Purling Hiss and Kurt Vile

Zachary: Yah, those are the bands I want to play shows with! I want to play shows with other rock bands. I really getting tired of this sampler heavy-post animal collective castrated dribble. I want rock n roll!

MGM: I feel the same. Its frustrating hearing all the same "indie" shit that comes out. They had their time. Time for something new to come in

Zachary: I agree. I don't think we are the only ones either

MGM: Though I tried to explain Tonstartssbandht to someone, a band you played with, and I think they sound like sung tong era animal collective through fuzz pedals. How did you get involved with them?

Zachary: Yah, they used to do this melodic-sampler based fuzz pop. Although I think they are moving away from that. Their best stuff is when they play as a two-piece rock outfit. Guitar and drums. They are hellava musicians. They lived in Montreal when I was there. We played a couple of shows; I've just kept in touch. But I dig how they'll try anything. People should be encouraged to be as adventurous.

MGM: What kind of equipment do you use for Lantern? What’s your gear man.

Zachary: I keep it simple I don't like a lot of effects. I like to start with a basic sound that is just so good. I don't like to hide behind effects. I use a Zvex Fuzz Factory, with Jim Dunlop Wah Original. Played through a 1484 Silvertone Amplifier with a homemade cabinet.

MGM: Nice did you build it?

Zachary: And a fender American Strat

Yeah me and my Dad, my mom picked out the psychedelic cloth that is used as the grill. Haha Family effort

MGM: What do you use to record on?

Zachary: Mostly just a four track, but sometimes I dub in some stuff on the computer

Using garage band or Ableton, cause it has some cool effects.

MGM: What can we see from Lantern in the future as far as releases?

Zachary: Quite a lot. We have a release coming out on Night People in May. A spilt tape lined up for June with a band called the Ether, coming out on Electric Voice. Also working on a cassette for Bathetic. And in a couple of weeks we have a cassette single coming out on Craft Singles. The Craft Single release is interesting. It is sort of an odd ball compared to the rest of the releases. It has a high recording quality and was performed with an impromptu band in my last weeks in Montreal. Recorded when Lantern was still more an abstract idea. We perform an old blues standard “Love To You" But then there is this crazy noise-free jazz-esq. freak-out. Andy March Produced and recorded it and released it. I had Alex from Dirty Beaches come in and play bass

MGM: What is your association with Alex of Dirty Beaches?

Zachary: I've known Alex for a couple of years. Omon Ra and Dirty Beaches are label mates on Fixture Records. Whenever we would make the trek up from Halifax to Montreal we would always hang and play together. There is a video of Omon Ra jamming with Alex on Youtube.

MGM: Do you have any plans to tour with Lantern in the future?

Zachary: Hell ya. We really want to hit the road. Have plans to do a nation wide late fall tour.

MGM: Whom are you playing with?

Zachary: Not sure yet. Still very much in the abstract. Just piecing it together

MGM: Which songs do you perform most frequently when you play live, and any covers? Do you play any old material from Omon Ra and Omon Ra II?

Zachary: We sometimes play “America is My Zoo”. Thinking about revisiting “National Anthem” and Jimmy. But I am not really one to look back. We play mostly stuff we've jammed and hashed out ourselves. We've only had three shows though!! We usually play "I'm Happy" which is a Hasil Adkins cove and we've just played the old blues number "Money (That's What I Want)" In the studio we jam the Stooges a lot. But we want to do lots of covers they are really fun to realize.

MGM: What are the main themes or topics for most of your songs.

Zachary: A lot has to do with Death or depravity of some sort. Like the dark side of your conscious violent men, dark dreams that you keep to yourself or being buried by technology

MGM: What is your ultimate direction for your band?

Zachary: I don't know. Just to keep it interesting. If it is a good project new ideas will always surface - Ideas that I wouldn’t have come up on my own - I'll always be surprised and the music will be alive and fresh. Having a known end is the nail in the coffin.

MGM: How can people access your music.

Zachary: Well people can check the merch page I've set up on Lantern's Tumblr. You can join our mailing list as well. I send exclusive tracks to subscribers. Just check the tumblr, there will updates with releases and info on where to get them.

MGM: Can you briefly explain your song writing process?

Zachary: I work on the fly. Most of my best stuff just comes right up on the spot, not planned I consider myself to be a very good improviser. Most of my songs lately are one riff. I call them "little Boleros" where the interest and tension comes from how you arrange the riff over time. I used to try and write songs with a lot of parts, because I felt you had too. But I was never very good at that.

MGM: Some Tiger Beat questions. Favorite movies:

Zachary: I really like Jim Henson. I grew up with Sesame Street and the Muppets. I love the Dark Crystal

Blade Runner is one of my absolute favs. Big fan Blue Velvet, and Mullholland Drive. Eraserhead is pretty cool. And it is allegedly inspired by the neighborhood I live in Philadelphia. I always wish I would watch more movies. It is just hard to find the time in life to do it right now. I know I've watched a lot of good ones. I have netflix; I want to use it more. Spinal Tap is also one of my favorites.

MGM: What books are you cramming your eyeballs into?

Zachary: I read a lot of books about musicians and music I am a pretty big nerd

Although I read a shitload of Cormac McCarthy which definitely influenced the direction of Lantern.

I really like his book "The Outer Dark" it is one of his early novels. I really liked "The Last Temptation of Christ" “Steppenwolf” by Hesse. I like reading about mythology. Really dig Joseph Campbell. Reading Keith Richards autobiography right now. It's pretty fun. Was reading Lee Scratch Perry's bio.

MGM: Who are you following in music now?

Zachary: Well I generally listen to old music - and if it is new music is usually comes my friends - Omma Cobba, Dirty Beaches, The Friendly Dimension, Broken Deer. Although I do listen to lots of stuff on blogs. I really like Ty Segall and a bunch of those San Fran bands like the Sic Alps, Thee Oh Sees (Coachwhips are my fav, though) My friend played me the Black Angels the other day, I thought they sounded pretty cool, they have a major Spacemen 3 vibe, which is always cool. Purling Hiss is rad. I really like oOoOO and Ariel Pink and Omneotrix Point Never

MGM: Last question: Where do you see Lantern in the future?

Zachary: Well hopefully gaining a nice little following and getting better and better. Really want to do a proper album, put something out on wax and just tour it like crazy. I'd love to make Lantern my full time job - oh what I could do then. That is my ultimate goal - I don't want to settle for anything less.

MGM: You wouldn’t be doing anything but music.

Zachary: Ya. I just feel useless otherwise.

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