20 Jun

There’s some synchronicity to be noted between our inability to properly pronounce the name Tjutjuna upon first blush, and our continued inability to properly describe their music.

A blessing it is, then, to have a member of the band – Brian Marcus – answer our ridiculous questions below, and school us both in proper pronunciation and the proper interpretation of the title given to their recent, spectacular album, “Westerner.”

Westerner” itself could easily find placement at the top of our list of the year’s best albums – except we don’t really believe in such lists, and the album isn’t really a product of this year. Recorded in the recent past but just released this year by FireTalk Records, “Westerner” makes it clear to us that the best from Tjutjuna is yet to come, perhaps in the past of the future, or perhaps in the future of the past.

Or something. Forgive our disorientation, but there’s a form of vertigo – an ultimately pleasant, somewhat surprising form of vertigo – that emerges from repeated listens to “Westerner,” beginning with the patient lift-off of “Mousetrap,” a song that opens both the album and a crack in your skull as well. The beat is steady, a mousetrap-motorik, with endless layers of sound, building one on top of another, summoning spires of synths that reach mountainous heights, transforming without a trace into a squall of guitar noise that tags the following song, the beautifully named “Heavy Metal Dick.” With such sonic vertigo, it’s somewhat hard to know exactly where we stand – until we follow the surreal serenity offered by both “Montauk” and “Harry Krishna,” and see that we’re home, and always have been.

Westerner” is an endless array of tones and textures, wheels of sound within wheels of sound produced in enormous scope, yet characterized by an unselfconsciousness and directness. Which is to say, it’s really awesome.

We couldn’t be more pleased to offer the Tjutjuna interview below. Enjoy.

Have you by any chance seen the most recent movie directed by Bobcat Goldthwait, entitled “Willow Creek,” which concerns one couple’s efforts to capture the elusive “Bigfoot” – a creature sometimes referenced as the “Yeti” or “Chuchunya” or “Tjutjuna”? Have you seen the poster for “Willow Creek” (seen below) and if so, do you think it would have made a good Tjutjuna album cover or t-shirt? What were the circumstances that led you to choosing to name the band Tjutjuna? What’s the worst butchering of the name you’ve ever seen in print, on a marquee or heard pronounced?

We choose that band name because we liked the way it looked written and it was unique – there wasn’t another band with that name, which is very rare these days. It is very hard to pronounce (Chu-Choo-Na) but a lot of people also do have trouble spelling it. I think the worst butchering is something like “Junjunta” or something. We jokingly say Tijuana, Tijuanica, or my favorite, Jewtuna.

As far as the movie goes I don’t think any of us have seen it – I haven’t, at least. For the record, I like 80’s Bobcat the most. That poster is great – love it. Super hesh. It reminds me of this artist, Skinner. His stuff is similar but a little more colorful. That would be a great album cover.

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Regardless of the movie referenced above, epic, sprawling music of the type made by Tjutjuna is sometimes tagged with the adjective, “cinematic.” Can you recall ever being directly influenced, musically, by a particular film or section of a film? Is there a visual component that you’re conscious of when creating music? Is there a single adjective or phrase you regularly use to describe Tjutjuna’s music to someone who’s not heard it before?

I personally love film music. Ennio Morricone might be my favorite, but I also love John Williams. But my favorite film soundtrack might be “Conan The Barbarian” by Basil Poledouris . There’s so little dialogue in that movie the score does a lot of the narrative heavy work. But when I was younger I definitely wanted to bite everything from Ennio Morricone’s western stuff.

As much as I love cinematic music I don’t necessarily think of us as being overtly cinematic. We normally describe it as psychedelic or hypnotic. There is a visual component to our music. It’s less conceptual and narrative based and more like the Star Gate/Space Port scene from “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

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Over the past several weeks, we’ve found ourselves listening to your most recent album, “Westerner,” repeatedly. That speaks to our overwhelming fondness for the other-worldly sounds contained within the album, but also to our discovery that “Westerner” sounds fantastic – and feels refreshing – in any variety of contexts: first thing in the morning, late at night, driving, etc. Was there an overriding theme that you hoped to express on the album, through its music and its sequencing? Is there a particular context in which you find yourself most often listening to music apart from that you make with Tjutjuna? Is there a particular context you find yourself most often creating the music for Tjutjuna?

Thank you very much. There was definitely not so much an overriding theme but definitely some tweaks in lineup and approach that changed the way we did things this time around as opposed to the first record.

As far as sequencing goes, we try to keep it unique on each side. So no two songs that sound too similar on one side of a record and no two that sound similar placed in the same location on either side of a record.

There’s no particular context for listening to music for me, personally – I’m always listening to it. As far as a context for creation, it’s normally at band practice, based off a philosophy, and then we improvise with that in mind. Each song (especially on “Westerner”) is pretty philosophical in its structure and approach.

What does the title “Westerner” represent to you? We’re reminded of a story told by Lama Surya Das in his book, “Awakening the Buddha Within,” who writes:

“Back in the early 1970’s, I remember trying to discuss drugs with Lama Yeshe. I described to him in colorful detail my cosmic mystical experiences during a one-week solitary trek through Nepal. I spent two days meditating at a Himalayan hot spring, under the influence of hallucinogenic mushrooms. I had hoped and even expected Lama to explain these things and even help me understand. Instead, he laughed loudly and exclaimed, ‘Western boy’s dream!’ He would say no more. He just kept laughing.”

There’s a great love of Japanese bands like Acid Mothers Temple, Flower Travellin’ Band and Boredoms in our band. It refers to our Western interpretation of their Eastern interpretation of rock music.

Our understanding is that “Westerner” was recorded a couple of years ago – in 2011, in fact, the year we had the opportunity to see the band at Austin Psych Fest. Is there any particular reason for the gap between recording and release? How do you think your perspective on the music made by the band has evolved, if at all, in that intervening time?

It was – it was right after a tour in 2011. The reason for the break was there was a period where we kind of muddled about, not sure of the direction or future of the band. I’m happy we released it when we did because we would not have been able to do the things we’ve done this year if we had released it sooner.

Our perspective has changed since then but we had a fresh perspective coming off that tour. Playing every night changes the way you function and we found ourselves as a three piece after that tour. And those experiences shaped where we were as a band. We tried to keep it a little simpler than our self-titled album. Bands like Spectrum and Suicide do so much with so little and we were really impressed by that and how powerful and cool they can be live.

Not too long ago, you had the opportunity to tour with Acid Mothers Temple. What was the most surprising thing you learned over the course of the tour, both about music in general and about yourself in particular? How many metric tons of vinyl would you estimate the members of Acid Mothers Temple purchased during this time on the road?

That was the best tour ever. We all would get back in the van and do it again in a heart beat. It just ended and we’re already nostalgic. The most surprising thing that we learned was that we could keep going on that grueling tour schedule. And a few not so nice things to say in Japanese. We really miss those guys.

We’d always ask how much vinyl they bought that day, and they would normally hold out their hands, like they were measuring it by depth. I’d wager each member bought three-to-five inches a day. I know there were a few days when one guy would spend over $100.00.

Would you care to comment on the rumor – the rumor that we are attempting to start right now – that your song “Heavy Metal Dick” is a thinly veiled reference to the largely forgotten period in Tjutjuna’s history when the band was fronted by legendary heavy metal vocalist King Diamond?

Oh no – not King Diamond. Please, let’s not have that be a thing. It’s actually a “Trailer Park Boys” reference, which is a Canadian television show. So far we’ve had a reference on every album and we hope to keep the streak going. I would really like to name a song. “Public Idiot Number One Has Gone One Step Too Far. We’re In the Eye of a Shiticaine here, Julian – Ricky Is a Low Shit System,” but that’s a little long.

What music have you been listening to lately? If push comes to shove, what’s your favorite Tangerine Dream album and why? Please show your work.

I personally have been listening to Vinyl Williams, who I recently discovered, as well as Food Pyramid, Harald Grosskopf, Lindstrøm, Boredoms, Master Musicians of Bukkake, Forma and I still listen to “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City” a few times a week.

In his book “Brave New World Revisited,” Aldous Huxley – an early supporter of Tangerine Dream, we’re certain, despite having died several years before their debut album was released – wrote the following:

“In regard to propaganda, the early advocates of universal literacy and a free press envisaged only two possibilities: the propaganda might be true, or the propaganda might be false. They did not foresee what in fact has happened, above all in our Western capitalist democracies – the development of a vast mass communications industry, concerned in the main neither with the true nor the false, but with the unreal, the more or less totally irrelevant. In a word, they failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.”

Your thoughts?

Excuse me – I need to go through page after page of Reddit with glazed eyes, clicking on links that I won’t even fully look at. I’ll also browse Netflix constantly, while settling on a TV show I’ve already seen that I won’t even watch, but will be playing on a different tab in the background. I just closed a Facebook tab – I better reopen it, not realizing I had just closed it and absentmindedly scrolled through the same banal musings and links I saw fifteen seconds ago. By the way, I’m not going to realize I did any of this.

What’s next for Tjutjuna?

We’re demoing an album currently. And that’s been fun and going well. There will be less time in between these albums. We’re also going to be hitting the road in September, it’s looking like.

Westerner” by Tjutjuna is available now from Fire Talk Records


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