We frequently find it hard to believe that Quest For Fire aren’t as old as the ice age itself, or at least thirty-year veterans of the psychic riff wars.
This difficulty is assessing their time, place and space stems from our rapid, repeated consumption of their two albums – a self-titled debut and its follow-up, “Lights from Paradise.” Both albums offer such a complete sound, consistently crushing while never forsaking grace and deftly digging passageways to alternate dimensions. Their songs are so solid, so instantly memorable that they’ve captured a permanent place in our compromised cranium.
Whatever governor that would keep our brain from considering a song like “Bison Eyes” or “Set Out Alone” just as compelling, classic and identifiable as a song like “Born to Go” or “Sweet Leaf” has long since burned away, reduced to ash by these Canadians’ Quest For Fire.
With news that the band is currently working on an eagerly-awaited follow-up to “Lights From Paradise,” we’re more than pleased to share this interview with singer/guitarist Chad Ross, in advance of the band taking hold of the flame at Austin Psych Fest 2012. Enjoy.
What relationship forms in your mind when thinking of the adjective “heavy” to describe music? Is it in the riff? The rhythm? The emotional impact upon the listener? Some combination of all three? Can you recall the first music you heard that made you – figuratively or literally – step back and say, “Whoa – that’s heavy”? Do you still find that music compelling today? Why or why not?
I prefer to think of emotional weight when thinking of all things heavy. My earliest memory of having my mind blown as a kid, was seeing Neil Young sit down and play an acoustic song on television. To this day, Neil Young is still in heavy rotation in my life.
Is there a single notable difference between playing with Quest for Fire and other bands you have been involved with in the past? Was there anything that you wanted to attain with this band – musically, spiritually – at its formation, and if so, how have those ambitions evolved over time? What’s about Quest for Fire in 2012 would have been most surprising to you in, say, 2009?
Quest for Fire has evolved into what it is very naturally. When we first started jamming, it was an outlet, a place to blow off some serious steam. We knew that we wanted to have songs that burned, and we also knew that we wanted to play wide-open, slow jams. To this day, not much has changed. The only thing that surprises me is that we still have the lust to jam. In previous bands, that lust tapered at a faster rate. You have to be friends to make good collective art. When musicians can’t stand being in the same room with each other … that’s the beginning of the end.
One of the many things that we feel sets Quest for Fire apart from some of your contemporaries is simply the vocals themselves – there’s more than a hint of melody within, and never do the vocals seem to be trying to usurp the power of the band; rather, they seem to serve as something as a counterpoint, and an identifiable one. Is this a conscious choice, or just a natural evolution of the band’s sound? How confident were you in your vocal abilities prior to performing with Quest for Fire? What are you most impressed by when it comes to other vocalists or singers?
My vocal style comes very naturally. I can’t belt it out, so I work with what I have.
At first, I wasn’t sure of what i was capable of until we recorded the first record. But everything just started to flow, so I went with it, without question. However, I always knew that I wanted to use the vocals as an additional texture. I wanted it to be a bigger version of The Byrds or “Bull of the Woods.”
What can you tell us about the cover art for both your self-titled album and “Lights From Paradise”? Are the two images related in any concrete way, or do they both only share in their vibrant colors? What do both images represent to you? How important to you is the visual presentation working in concert with the music?
Our good friend Andre Ethier donated both of the images for the LPs. He’s an amazing painter/musician from Toronto. Andrew and I played with Andre in a Toronto garage band called The Deadly Snakes. We still play with Andre from time to time, and Andrew is in another band with him called Cut Flowers. The images were just very fitting, in relation to the jams that we were coming up with at the time of both recordings. There has always been a rich relationship between images and music in the psychedelic world. So it’s very important for them to hold hands. And it’s also very important to know that the two compliment and inspire each other.
We make no secret of our utter fascination with Monster Magnet and particularly their braintrust, Dave Wyndorf (seen on our site here buying socks at Target with the drummer of The Vandelles). How did it come to be that Quest for Fire make the trek from Toronto to NYC to open for the band recently? Was it worth the trip?
Oh, shit. A good friend of ours from Teepee Records set up the show. We agreed to do it because it was a good excuse to go down to New York and hang with some buds. I didn’t watch them. Nice dudes, just not my thing. We got screwed for money, got way too wasted, got caught in a little snow storm and headed back to Toronto with the shakes. Let’s just say we had fun.
Would you care to comment on the rumor (the rumor that we are attempting to start right now) that you have decided to not play music at Austin Psych Fest this year, and will instead set up a food cart in the vendor area, selling garbanzo beans, rolled oats and kale, to be called “Quest For Fiber”?
That’s a horrible idea for a food cart in Austin. A better idea would be to keep the name, and sell tacos instead. Lots of fiber in those guys. But who in their right mind would want to buy tacos from a bunch of Canadians? No.
How did you first hear about Austin Psych Fest? Are there any bands in particular on the bill that you have not seen before, but are anxious to catch this year?
We got asked to do it last year. In fact, I think we were announced to play. We had to cancel because of a conflict with a European tour. Bummer. I’m excited about the lineup this year. I’ve seen a lot of the bands playing. I like Psychic Ills a lot… stoked to see them. I’ve also been digging lots of Moon Duo/Wooden Shjips lately … stoked to see those guys again.
What music have you been listening to lately? If push comes to shove, what is your favorite Moody Blues song of all time?
I’m really digging the new Ty Segall record, “Goodbye bread.” That’s funny that you mention The Moody Blues. I’m actually pretty obsessed with their first four records. “A question of balance” actually sat on my turntable for the better part of last week. My favorite jam on that record is, “It’s Up to You.”
Eleanor Roosevelt – also a fan of Monster Magnet – once said the following:
“It takes courage to love, but pain through love is the purifying fire which those who love generously know. We all know people who are so much afraid of pain that they shut themselves up like clams in a shell and, giving out nothing, receive nothing and therefore shrink until life is a mere living death.”
What’s next for Quest for Fire?
We’ve actually been in the studio working on songs for our new record. We’re just at the demo part of the process, but everything is coming together very nicely. We hope to have a new record out in 2012.