23 May

We will hear no album heavier than “Lupus” – the recently unleashed effort of the UK’s Dead Sea Apes – all year. We may not hear one heavier, ever.

It’s not something we declare flippantly. In fact, it’s something we would prefer to not have mentioned at all. We take care to avoid the temptation of quantifying musical enjoyment, endeavoring to pull focus on the qualitative rather than the quantitative elements of music.

Further, our nature is to seek to soften the declaration above about the utter strength and majesty of “Lupus” – we’re not saying that it’s the heaviest album of the year, but we are saying we are confident that we will not hear one any heavier.

For background, please know that these words are written shortly after recent retrospectives from both Swans and Sleep – indisputable twin pillars for the foundation of what we might (and do) call “heavy” – have arrived at the Temple of the Apes.

Also, please know that “Lupus”- while certainly somewhat directly (and somewhat indirectly) influenced by the aesthetic experiences of Swans and Sleep – will not necessarily remind the listener of those twin pillars upon initial listen. The heaviness of “Lupus” is appropriate to its title – elusive, cunning, and equipped with both great endurance and unmistakable, interlocking teeth that allow for their poor, poor prey to be caught and held, their bones crushed.

What we mean to express in our mock-canonization of “Lupus” is simply our completely blown mind, our total admiration of and gratitude for the gift of this unique expression of third-eye ophthalmology, for the pure identity – universal and personal in one – expressed so brilliantly on this album.

 Again – we say none of this lightly. Ape shall not bullshit Ape.

Yet we find it at least curious that our first impression of Dead Sea Apes made note of “the slow-build and the careful, nearly telepathic manner in which the band determines when to preserve their power while setting forth with a shimmering, reptilian slither, and when the exact moment arrives to replicate total consciousness-exploding, multi-dimensional rocketry.”

And now, with the release of Lupus, we hear below from Brett Savage – only one element of the three-man pyramid that is Dead Sea Apes – who notes, “It isn’t so much that any one of us writes the songs individually – there seems to be a ‘third mind’ at work when we come together as a band.”

We cannot recommend the procurement of “Lupus” any more emphatically, nor could we feel any more fortunate to have Mr. Savage answer our ridiculous questions below. Enjoy.

How would you describe your own personal musical evolution? Were you the type who demonstrated a distinct interest in music from a very young age? Or was music something you came to be obsessed with later in life? What other interests vied for your attention, apart from music, during your adolescence?  What interests apart from music vie for your attention today?

I’ve always been the type of person who has gone through manic stages of obsessions with music. My ma always had music around the house, so I had a broad education in that sense. I remember a time in my early teens where I was so turned off with pop music that all I would listen to was soundtracks. I remember having a picture disc of the “E.T.” soundtrack, which got an undue amount of spins. I was introduced to heavy metal music when I was in my early teens, and it really appealed to me at the time. Although I listened to a lot of serious crap at the time (and I really can’t overstate how serious that crap was), I did start listening to some bands that had a lasting effect at the time, such as Black Sabbath or AC/DC, and at the time stuff like that seemed out of time to most metal fans (my peers, at least) – but the cheapness, weathered record sleeves and ultimately timeless quality really spoke to me. At the time, I seriously got into “Abbey Road,” and used to play “She’s So Heavy” constantly. I kinda migrated on to a lot of late 60’s bands after that. I guess Led Zeppelin, Love and The 13th Floor Elevators took hold after that. I’ve always tried to be broad with my listening, but it used to be if I hated something, I HATED it. I think I’ve learned my lesson on that score now, as I often end up eating my words. Others may disagree. I think the only other interests whilst I was growing up was in comic books or science fiction with any kind of “cosmic” element to them, and I have had an enduring interest in the occult and mysticism ever since my early teens.

I cant really speak for Nick and Chris, but they seem to have equally eclectic tastes.

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We’re always fascinated not necessarily by the logistic details of a particular bands formation, but rather by the “cosmic” details, for lack of a better term. The music of Dead Sea Apes isn’t music that we find easily describable – how did the band come to decide on the approach you would take musically? What conversations do you recall having about what you wished to pursue, sonically speaking, as a band? What has been the biggest surprise regarding how you work and create together as a band, since your formation? How do you think your relationships – both as musicians and as artistic partners – have evolved since the band’s formation?

Hard to say, really. We all met on one of those internet “musicians dating” sites.  Influences that were bandied around at the time were things like Neu!, Can, Beefheart, Shellac, Autechre, 13th Floor Elevators, Julian Cope and Kyuss, amongst others. We had an initial meet-up and just improvised in the practice room. It’s strange because as individuals, we all probably have a very different worldview but there was some instant, intuitive musical relationship between us – so all of our preconceived ideas of what we wanted the band to be started to become irrelevant as it really started to dictate itself in quite a spooky way. It isn’t so much that any one of us writes the songs individually – there seems to be a “third mind” at work when we come together as a band.

We first became introduced to Dead Sea Apes after hearing the “Soy Dios” release, prompting us to name Dead Sea Apes the “Band of the Week” in the summer of 2011. A two-part question: First, is there any honor higher than being named “Band of the Week” by an obscure, odd and ape-obsessed website run solely by an obscure, odd and ape-obsessed weirdo from central Virginia? Second, how did the influence of the film “El Topo” originally manifest itself in the music of Dead Sea Apes?

Have you seen Jodorowsky’s other big film, “Holy Mountain”? The act of climbing the mountain as a metaphor for reaching some kind of spiritual ascension? Well, that is an equivalent peak (excuse the pun) experience to being “Band of the Week” on Revolt Of The Apes.

As for “El Topo,” it was pretty much an after-the-fact influence. I’d say Neil Young’s “Dead Man” score was more of an initial influence, but the psych elements led it directly to “El Topo.” It wasn’t really an attempt to provide an alternative soundtrack to “El Topo”; it was more or less the kind of that mystical, “desert as a place of initiation”-feeling that put us in mind of it.

What can you tell us about the EP, “Astral House”? From where does the title “Bikini Atoll” stem? We find the song “Dead Fingers Talk” to be nothing short of hypnotic – what is the inspiration for the title of this track? What is the inspiration for the title “Astral House” as a whole? What do you know of astrology, if anything at all, and how, again, if at all, did the concept of heavenly bodies in ascension influence the construction of this unique “Astral House”?

I have a real big thing about titles. I remember reading somewhere that Brian Eno felt that titles were incredibly important to instrumental music, as they give an extra context to them. They are the “lyrics.”  If its good enough for Eno … I honestly feel that a title is very much part of a song’s identity, and perhaps can exert some amount of influence as much as the music can. There can be a feeling of “working title” with the titles of some instrumental music, almost like an afterthought, which to me lessens what music can be about.

Across the road from the school I went to, there was a huge Brutalist block of social housing “apartments” (to use the American vernacular), which was called Astral House, and I always thought it suggested something more cosmic and monumental than some concrete eyesore.

“Bikini Atoll” was inspired by the nuclear testing that took place in the years following WWII. I could always hear Geiger counters in the quieter bits. “Dead Fingers Talk” was named after William Burroughs’s attempt at remixing his own books.

I’d love to hold forth on astrology, but according to my horoscope, I’m due a meeting with a tall, dark stranger.

Dead Sea Apes is – at times – dead heavy. Like, makes-our-teeth-rattle heavy. Where does this impulse stem from in your view? What are the bands that you consider to be undeniably heavy, and related, what bands do you find to be “heavy,” while recognizing you may be in the minority-view of this opinion? What is special about the power of great volume, and in what ways to consider its potential for overuse in the music you create? 

“Heaviness” is a strange thing to quantify. The Beatles song I mentioned before, “She’s So Heavy” – especially the ending – is incredibly heavy. I know it says as much in the title. That sort of monotonous spiraling guitar riff sounds like the world is about to come to an end. Don’t expect the bugle of the four horsemen at the end of the world, expect George Harrison.

I think a lot of Demdike Stare’s stuff is pretty heavy. But heavy in the sense of being oppressive, rather than some palm muted, down tuned guitar riff. I’d also say stuff like “Planet Caravan” off “Paranoid” always struck me as being far “heavier” than most of Black Sabbath’s stuff, just because it felt so isolated and out there to me. I’d imagine most people would consider that to be one of their more mellow moments. Maybe, its something I associate with my angsty teenage years.  That’s not to say Sabbath are in anyway lacking in “heaviness” (in the traditional sense) on their other songs.

As far as I’m concerned, and it is probably my favorite piece of music ever, Funkadelic’s “Maggot Brain” is super heavy. I believe George Clinton told Eddie Hazel to play “like you’ve just heard that your Momma has died.” or words to that effect. And you can tell. It gets me every time. It’s in the same realm as “Planet Caravan.” It feels so out there – not in terms of, say,  free jazz, but emotionally speaking, it is untouchable. Godlike.

I know exactly what I don’t find “heavy”-  Metallica! It just sounds like the impotent rage of four boy-children (to be fair – I’d only aim that at Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield as they are both morons of the first water). Also, pretty much all the Nu-Metal bands. It sounds like they had to be prompted to be angry, negative and aggressive whilst in the studio. As far as I’m concerned, one note of anything from Sleep’s back catalog is a ton heavier than, say, the whole output of Korn condensed.

As for how we use heaviness in Dead Sea Apes music … I think it is almost entirely down to Nick and Chris.  They have a natural sense of dynamic and drama. We have always had a lot of space in our music and that ratchets up the tension somewhat.

What music have you been listening to lately? If push comes to shove, what is your favorite Kraftwerk song and why? If push continues to come to shove, what is your favorite of the five original “Planet of the Apes” films and why? Please show your work.

I’ve been listening to lots recently. I absolutely adored both of those Sylvester Anfang II albums. I really, really dig Bong’s new one too. I really like a cosmically folky guitarist called Dean McPhee. I managed to get my mitts on that Date Palms album finally, which is divine. Ive also been listening to Sandy Bull, Earth’s last album, Arbouretum, Carlton Melton, Sun Araw & The Congos and Barn Owl. There’s always anything by GNOD that you should just immediately snap up as soon as it comes out. There’s really just so much great music out there at the minute, it makes your head spin.

My favourite Kraftwerk track is “Hall of Mirrors,”  and my favourite Planet of the Apes film would have to be one where there is that weird underground kangaroo court who worship an atom bomb (or did I dream that one?). [Note: No dream – in our astral house, we call that one “Beneath the Planet of the Apes.”]

Your full-length album, “Lupus,” has been in constant rotation in our truck and in our headphones at night since it was received at the headquarters of the Apes. What are your overall thoughts on this album now that you have some distance from its creation? Was there an overarching theme to the songs contained therein? What can you tell us about the origin of the album title? The album begins with the ominous drone of “Pharmakon,” which itself begins with a single tone – a tone that to us represents patience and persistence even while being within the eye of the storm. What does this song – and the opening tone – mean to you?

“Pharmakon” reminds me of that weird, destabilizing feeling you get when something unaccountably strange is happening and the mind has a little panic and tries to reassert itself. Almost like a change in consciousness. I think you could call it cognitive dissonance.

“Lupus” was written from jamming along to drones and loops we assembled over time. I think we had a certain feel in mind when we set out, but a lot of the musical narrative was sort of pulled together afterwards. When we listened back to the original jams, certain things suggested themselves. Again, were big fans of Can, and that process of re-editing and re-interpreting things is really inspiring. It opened a lot of doors for us in terms of how we would go about writing music in the future.

Never mind Dead Sea Apes – let’s talk about GNOD. Tell us everything. Do they really exist? What makes their music do irresistible to you?

I’m not sure if they really do exist or not, to be honest. Every time I see them on stage, I notice a slight flicker, which suggests to me that they might well be some kind of intense thought projection.

It’s funny because Manchester really sees itself as being some kind of creative hotbed of innovation and musical invention, yet the majority of people seem to be still addicted (20 years after the fact) to the unfulfilled promise of The Stone Roses.  I think it’s ironic that so many Mancunians have failed to notice that a band so incredibly brilliant as GNOD are carrying on right under their noses. But to be fair, that’s a blessing. As much I wish GNOD every success in the world, I can’t tell you how amazing it is to see them in small venues. I saw them play in a pub basement a few weeks ago, and they were incredible – fully improvised and even better than all the other times I’ve seen them.

English romantic poet – and massive CAN fan – Lord Byron once wrote the following:

“But Life will suit Itself to Sorrow’s most detested fruit, Like to the apples on the Dead Sea’s shore, All ashes to the taste.”

Your thoughts?

Do apes swim? Are apes coastal by nature? Did Lord Byron really prefer Mooney to Suzuki, or did he secretly go against the grain and prefer the later stuff?

What’s next for Dead Sea Apes?

Vinyl, hopefully. And untold riches. Were doing a collaboration with Black Tempest which is sounding A-OK. We’re also ruminating on our next recordings, which I can’t wait to get on with. Maybe we could borrow Carlton Melton’s geodesic dome to record in?

Dead Sea Apes

Dead Sea Apes at Bandcamp


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