It’s probably a little late – though perhaps a little early – but if push came to shove and we were forced to choose our favorite song of all time, it just might be “I’m Five Years Ahead of My Time” by The Third Bardo.
And it’s probably a little early – though perhaps a little late – but if push came to shove and we were forced to choose our favorite album of 2014 thus far, it just might be “The Second Bardo” by The Cult of Dom Keller (on Cardinal Fuzz Records).
What does one have to do with the other? Very little. But bardo to bardo, few bands have been as consistently mind-melting to these apes as the mighty and mysterious Cult of Dom Keller. This opinion was born the very first time we found ourselves confronted with their creepy, candle-lit, decidedly not-soft parade, way back in 2010, an opinion grown strong prior to their first visit to the States in 2011, and an opinion turned irrefutable precept upon the release of “The Second Bardo.”
Truly, this album confirms what one of our most respected friends declared upon his introduction to the sound of The Cult of Dom Keller: “Unreal. I don’t even think that was recorded; it was conjured. And they’re not playing instruments.” Higher praise simply isn’t possible.
We’re thrilled to have Ryan (guitar/vocals), Neil (vocals/keys) and Jason (bass) from The Cult of Dom Keller answer our ridiculous questions below. Enjoy – and all hail Doomfoot.
How has your perception of writing and recording music evolved since the earliest days of The Cult of Dom Keller? If you were given unlimited financial resources, where would you locate the band for the ideal recording environment?
Ryan: When the band first began, the songs evolved from improvised jams, ideas and demos which me and Neil would edit and shape into songs; adding/taking away from the madness and then learning the tracks in the studio with the band so we could play them live as songs, as at the time, this was the most productive way to work.
Jason: The intention had always been that they were essentially demos, which would be recorded properly when we found somewhere that was sympathetic to our requirements within our almost non-existent budget, and could either be produced/engineered by ourselves or someone we could trust to do justice to the music. It’s not an easily definable sound we aim toward, so there would really have to be a meeting of minds for that to work. The ideal location to record our music, if budget was not an issue, would be somewhere quiet, spacious and well-equipped, where we could be left to our own devices and not be disturbed until it was finished to our satisfaction. If we’re talking fantasy situations then my ideal location would be Boleskine House. Hands down. Right next to Loch Ness – large, beautiful and shrouded in mystery. That for me would be the location equivalent of what I believe we’re trying to achieve sonically.
Ryan: The “Lucifer Rising” score was recorded there (the tragically unused Jimmy Page version).
Jason: That is one of the most incredible pieces of music ever. And then there’s Spahn Ranch; that would be purely for the atmosphere as it was burned down years ago and it also links in with “Lucifer Rising,” as that was where Bobby Beausoleil buried the original film tapes.
Neil: I’ve always fancied recording at Rockfield studios in Wales. Heard some great stories about Julian Cope recording there with Teardrop Explodes. Apparently there’s a studio made entirely out of marble? Be like recording in a mausoleum! Can I have Clint Mansell in to produce as well? I’ve always been interested in the cinematic side of music, soundscapes and the mood you can create sonically.
Ryan: Beyond realms of reality, we would have our amplifiers in craters on the moon and use the sun as our generator, plug our instruments into the stars and create a soundtrack to the universe that would resonate till the end of time.
What does the name “The Cult of Dom Keller” mean to you at this point in your life? The word “cult” can be interpreted in a number of different ways, both positive and negative. How do you think it applies to your life outside of music? How do you think it applies to the band as a collective whole?
Jason: Well, originally the name of the band was Dom Keller, which painted a psychic picture of the darker, reverberant sound that would come along later. The Cult of Dom Keller means a bunch of things, dependent mainly on who you ask and what you want to believe.
Ryan: Its about creating and moving beyond the sounds between the sounds in our heads.
Was there a time in your life where you really felt like your own relationship with music was coming into bloom? Meaning, was there a moment when you went from merely being interested in or enjoying music, to feeling like music was truly a part of who you are? Of why you’re here on this Earth? How has that feeling evolved over the past couple of years?
Jason: For me, there’s never been any question about it. I think I was afflicted at birth.
Ryan: Music is a transcendental force. Every time I create the sounds we make I feel the planets have lined up and we are channeling that energy through our music and beyond.
What can you tell us about the decision to name your most recent album, “The Second Bardo”? What does that title mean to you? Are you familiar with the song “I’m Five Years Ahead of My Time” by The Third Bardo?
Ryan: The second bardo is a stage in which the desires of the individual are said to carry the largely helpless soul through a great variety of intense emotional states. The soul bounces from thought to thought as a torrent of thoughts and feelings come like a waterfall. When Jason suggested “The Second Bardo,” it made perfect sense.
Jason: As the album is slightly more dreamier and ethereal than it’s predecessor. As for “Five Years Ahead of My Time” … that is an incredible song, though The Third Bardo band had nothing to do with naming the record. Well, not on a conscious level anyway.
Neil: There was no conscious decision around direction or concept in mind for the second album. We’re still inspired by the same things, but I’d say we have more focus now. Our combined energy is definitely being channeled in the same direction.
The opening track – “Plague of All” – on “The Second Bardo” is a perfect lead-off for the record as a whole. It’s threatening, hypnotic and may now be our favorite CODK song – thought it has a lot of competition. At what point did it become clear that this should be the opening track of the album? In your mind, what is the band attempting to convey in this song, either in its tone or in or in its lyrics? Was there a certain overall feel you wanted this album to represent, different than on your self-titled full-length?
Ryan: This track was created when I was listening back to various jams we had done and I started to play around with it building the guitar parts over it. Neil and I then began to work on the vocals and it slowly began to evolve into what it is now. It is an immediate track; the sound of a hallucinogenic spaceship piloted by the grim reaper and it felt like the perfect entrance into the world we had created with this record.
Can you think of even one legitimate reason why I wasn’t immediately asked to join The Cult of Dom Keller on bass guitar?
Ryan: Jason is our brother from a different mother and it was only a matter of time before he returned to his spiritual musical home with us. He is the king of the bass.
Neil: Your commute would be too expensive!
What music have you been listening to lately?
All: Charles Manson/Manson Family, M.I.A. – “Matangi,” The Flaming Lips – “The Terror,” Cloudland Canyon, the new record by The Horrors, Karen Dalton, The Fall, Mussorgsky, John Lee Hooker, Chrome, Nick Cave, Liars, Tom Waites …
Do you need to do anything in particular to achieve the proper level of energy necessary for presenting The Cult of Dom Keller in the live setting? And what about The Cult of Dom Keller as a live spectacle?
Ryan: We used to sit in a circle, engage in séance and channel the spirit of Aleister Crowley. And eat Haribo.
Jason: Live, we like to use projections and sparse lighting because they both remove any kind of self-conscious performance element away from the band and create esoteric shapes for the audience to look at. I don’t feel we’re into making a spectacle for the audience to watch, I’d say we’re more focused toward providing a soundtrack to whatever hallucinatory effects we can help conjure up through our music.
The following quote comes from “Rest for the Fortunate” by Bardor Tulku Rinpoche:
“What we call death is when this fragility, this impermanence of human life, finally manifests for us. It means leaving this world and going to our next form of existence. The first thing that needs to be understood about death is that although we become very concerned about death when it happens to us, we are by no means the only person to whom death has happened. Death happens continually to all human beings and to all beings in general. Once any being has been born in any form of existence, it is absolutely certain that this being is going to die once again at some point in time. If you look at it from that point of view—that death is the natural result or completion of the process of birth—you can see that there is no reason to be so unhappy about the idea or the fact of death.”
Jason: True words. I used to be so terrified of death when I was a child, I literally became bed-ridden for weeks and convinced myself I was going to die. I couldn’t eat, my hair lost color, my skin turned almost grey and I couldn’t feel my hands or feet. It was insane. I think I went through the death process then, and that’s why my own death doesn’t scare me any more. In fact, I’m almost obsessed with it to the point that I think about it every day. What scares me is the impact that would have on loved ones. THAT is what terrifies me nowadays
Ryan: We’re all just energy. When we’re finished with our bodies we go on either to the next body to continue in our climb to the higher levels or if we’ve achieved liberation, we go on to the higher astral planes. Death is just a stepping stone. As living, breathing creatures we become obsessed by death. To quote a great Bukowski – “What is terrible is not death but the lives people live or don’t live up until their death.”Death, insanity, the unknown … these are all major influential triggers in creating the sonic landscapes we try to paint with our music.
Neil : I used to believe death was the only guarantee in life; now I believe there’s a little more to it than that.
What’s next for The Cult of Dom Keller?
Jason: We’re already busy writing new material for the third record and a few new people we really respect have begun to take notice of what we’re up to. We’re all so excited to get down to recording this next one as the band is running on all four cylinders right now and it is a great, great feeling.
Neil: Totally agree. This is exciting times both creatively and actively.
Ryan: Definitely. We’re now in our sixth year of existence and I feel we are better then ever: unafraid to experiment, moving out of the shadows of the past having addressed issues that held us back before and now we are harnessing that positive and creative energy to write and create an amazing third record that will simply fuck you in the brain.
Visit The Cult of Dom Keller on Bandcamp. Buy everything on which Cardinal Fuzz Records puts their name.