23 Mar

We might be better served to go with the flow, but we can’t resist amateurishly parsing the meaning, intention or ambition of Psychic Ills‘ most recent album – the not-necessarily-stoned-but-beautiful bliss of “Hazed Dream” – and the “dream” part of the equation in particular.

Since their earliest incarnation, the incantations of Psychic Ills have never suffered for lack of a hazy vibe, with the Ills laying down all manner of psychedelic sickness for which there is no cure, for there is no disease. Appropriate to the Wolf Vostell painting that graced the cover of 2006’s full-length debut, “Dins,” the approach of Psychic Ills seems to embrace a Fluxus-esque approach of breaking down core elements, rearranging them and building them up again, creating something new – something current – in the process. What seems utterly dreamlike to us is that this destruction and reconstruction ultimately led to the cool comfort of “Hazed Dream.”

But then, the Latin root of Fluxus is “to flow” – and if nothing else, Psychic Ills appear completely committed to going with it, and we couldn’t be more fortunate to be along for the ride.

Nor could we be more fortunate than to share the words and thoughts of the primary psychics behind this ill-lumination, Tres Warren and Elizabeth Hart, prior to their appearance at Austin Psych Fest 2012. Enjoy.

What is your earliest memory from your youth in regard to having a dream? What is it about that dream that you feel has enabled it to stay in your mind years later? Is there a connection – either tenuous or powerful – between your dreams and the music you create? In what ways do you find the two intersecting?

Tres Warren: Man, you’re not joking with these questions. I don’t honestly know. I don’t track my dreams in a journal, but I keep saying I’m gonna start. I can’t remember my real early dreams and I don’t know how they intersect with the music, either. I did get a dream interpretation book after I had a dream about frogs. Not the one Paul Bowles talks about in “The Sheltering Sky” – “Madame La Hiff’s Gypsy Dream Dictionary” – but it gave me the news I wanted to hear, nonetheless. It said, “Frogs are harmless creatures and to dream about frogs is a favorable dream.” That was good to hear, but then about a year later, I watched this film about Brazil called “Manda Bala,” and part of it has to do with a frog farm. Anyway, it turns out frogs are cannibals – they’ll eat each other if there’s nothing else around. The good news is they weren’t eating each other in my dream – they were just hanging around.

Elizabeth Hart: Yeah, I have no idea what my earliest dream recollection is. When I was young, I had this recurring dream often where I ended up in this machine that was hanging from a ceiling above a large indoor pool. The machine was very large, similar to a flying saucer. There were thousands of unlabeled, lit-up buttons inside. Each one, when pressed, would eject you from the machine in a different way into the pool, whether it be by slide, catapult, whatever. You never knew what you were gonna get, but it was ever thrilling. I was always trying to get back into that dream.

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With regard to your own musical development, who were the key people in your life (if any) whom encouraged you to explore creating music, or to explore a love of music in general? What did you learn from that person (or persons) that you still keep with you today? Have you noticed that your overall relationship with music has evolved significantly over the past few years – or is it something that remains relatively stable within your life?

TW: My Mom and Dad had a decent record collection as far a parents record collections go. Aside from that, I used to tape songs off the radio and make my own collections of stuff. The family wasn’t really musical but there was a piano around and I got an acoustic guitar for an early birthday, but I didn’t take to these things until later.

EH: 94.5 The Edge was a pretty good radio station back in the day, especially when – in Texas – it was like 90% new country. They played stuff like The Butthole Surfers, Primal Scream, The Smiths, etc. I made tapes from the radio too.

In what ways – if at all – does the concept of the “psychic” relate to the manner in which you create Psychic Ills’ music? Do you find yourselves following similar musical paths when improvising together? Do you find that musical improvisation, as a form of non-verbal communication, can strengthen the overall connection of the band members to the music of Psychic Ills? To your personal relationships as well?

TW: The name’s not related that I can tell. Some might say otherwise, though! But, yeah, playing, jamming, improvising together sort of tunes everyone in together. I still like getting lost in music … playing music with friends as the time passes. Playing music is the easy part. It’s everything else that goes with it that’s complicated – ha! But I’m not complaining—we’re pretty resilient.

EH: Psychic intuition? And yes, I think that jamming together certainly strengthens the overall connection. In terms of playing together or in personal relationships, a stronger bond is created if you are from the same village, so to speak. And, if you don’t notice it in the beginning it surely becomes evident sooner or later …

We’d be lying if we said that we can see a time in the near future when we will stop listening to “Hazed Dream” – it sounds to be an album of great confidence, even in the face of unsettling environments. Was there anything in your approach to this album that was notably different than the manner you worked on previous albums? What are your thoughts on the album now that some time has passed since it has been born into the world? Do you ever go back and revisit your recordings, days, months or years afterwards?

TW: I’m glad you like. I’m not worn out on it yet either, which is sort of cool for a change. It was made a little differently. We had demos, and the improvisation was limited. We had these songs and just went in and knocked it out in a couple days.

EH: When we recorded the record, we had yet to play any of the songs live, when usually by the time you record a record you are already sick of the songs. So, in that sense, “Hazed Dream” is still kind of new to me, which is cool.

What can you tell us about the origin of the song “Incense Head”? Incense can be used for meditation, religious rituals or simply for masking an unwelcome odor – for which of these purposes would incense most likely be used within the Psychic Ills tour van?

TW: The song originated as a riff. I was trying to play a Mexican sounding riff, but it ended up sounding sort of Eastern again. I’m trying to break that habit. Regarding incense in the van, maybe we won’t use it all during this tour to avoid some of the unwanted attention we received on previous tours … you get my drift?

EH: Haha – all of the above probably.

What music have you been listening to lately? If push comes to shove, what is your favorite Psychic TV album and why?

TW: Lately: Angus MacLise/Tony Conrad/Jack Smith – “Dreamweapon I,” Steve Young — “Seven Bridges Road,” and there’s this bar that I like to go that put a Little Richard CD in the jukebox, so I’ve been putting dollars in on that.

Regarding Psychic TV, I don’t know … how about the Beach Boys cover, “Good Vibrations”? I’m not hip to all of the output, but I still go back to Throbbing Gristle when the mood strikes.

EH: I will never tire of the Mistress Mix/Psychic TV version of Serge Gainsbourg/Jane Birken’s, “Je T’Aime.” Amazing.

What benefits do you gain from your other creative endeavors outside of music? Does your relationship with non-musical art directly influence your thinking when it comes to creating the music of Psychic Ills? What reception or attitude do you see in the art world at large that you would be pleased to see more of within the arena of music?

TW: I don’t really know. I’m just doing stuff. I don’t keep tabs on that stuff. We’re just making music and trying to enjoy doing it.

Would you care to comment on the rumor (the rumor that we are attempting to start right now) that your next album will be a space-rock-opera based on the late-in-life medical struggles of one-time “Tonight Show” co-host Ed McMahon, entitled “Sidekick Ills by Psychic Ills”?

TW: I can’t talk on it too much, y’know … legal stuff. But everyone knows about Ed’s “other side.” We just wanted to tell his side of the story in the best light, and a space-rock opera was sort of the only thing that made sense. De Palma’s “Phantom of the Paradise” is a good starting point.

EH: Yes – really the only possible option.

William Crookes – the 19th century chemist and a huge Deep Purple fan – said the following in an address to the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1898:

“It would be well to begin with telepathy; with the fundamental law, as I believe it to be, that thoughts and images may be transferred from one mind to another without the agency of the recognized organs of sense — that knowledge may enter the human mind without being communicated in any hitherto known or recognized ways.”

Your thoughts?

TW: Yeah – One time I was walking down the street and it started pouring real hard rain. I never usually carry an umbrella, and I’m thinking, man, I could use one. So I walk ten more feet and there’s an umbrella on the sidewalk—no joke. I tried that once when I was short on rent money, but it didn’t work. And I’ve definitely had that thing happen where I’ll think about someone and they’ll call me a minute later. I don’t know if that’s telepathy, synchronicity or coincidence.

EH: Mentalism

What’s next for Psychic Ills?

TW: Going on tour around the U.S., then making another record.

EH: Road dawgin’!

Psychic Ills


3 Responses to “PSYCHIC ILLS”


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