28 Jun

It’s not the first time the obvious has eluded us – and it certainly won’t be the last – but we now believe we’ve been listening to White Manna with the wrong optics for close to a year.

You see, when we awarded White Manna the dubious honor of “Band of the Week” in October of this past year – on the strength of their massively realized self-titled debut album on Holy Mountain records – we had taken the band’s sound to be that of invigorating, intrepid, interstellar travelers.

As confirmed in the interview below with guitarist/vocalist David Johnson, the truth is that the White Manna trip is one somewhat more earthbound in its origin. The clue was right there on the album cover itself, a scene of beautiful evergreens at dawn doing what they do best, the very activity that White Manna praise during what we described as the “ritual space-throb” of the song, “Keep Your Lanterns Burning” – “harvest the sun.”

Then again, we’re of the belief that whether looking towards the earth or towards the most distant star, what we’re really seeing is the “oneness of the duality. Not two, not one. This is the most important teaching.” And this discovery of our cosmic error does nothing to hamper our enjoyment of the all-natural riff-machine that is White Manna – in fact, it only serves to enhance that enjoyment.

We await the second album from White Manna with great anticipation – and we couldn’t be more pleased to share these answers to our ridiculous questions below. Enjoy.

In what ways – if it all – do you think your physical surroundings influence your creative approach? Have you ever actively sought out new or different areas to spend time, with the express purpose of stoking your creative fires, so to speak? What is the most surprising location in which you’ve ever uncovered some inspiration? What was the end result?

I think one’s physical surroundings are a major and virtually unavoidable influence on one’s creativity and imagination. Everything we see and hear daily in our lives as a whole can only affect our ideas and aesthetics toward various mediums of art. For White Manna, the trees, beaches, and open spaces where we live are all integral parts of our approach to music. Our natural surroundings are very humbling. If you had to drink a beer every time you heard something about the “sun” or “moon” or “trees” or “sea” in one of our songs, you’d get drunk real quick …

I’m really never surprised to find inspiration in strange places. I’ve found inspiration during a short stay in jail, and debating with Mormons has been enlightening, too … I’ve driven across the US many times, and have lived a few different places. I knew at the time and know now that these experiences were crucial for my current imagination …

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In a similar but perhaps opposite vein, can you recall a specific time in which you were musically inspired by a completely imaginary, unreal or at least not physically manifested environment? How did that inspiration reveal itself to you and what was the final result?

I’m sure I’ve been inspired or influenced by dreams, drugs, and meditation, which all have taken me out of what I think of as reality, but I’m not sure I can pinpoint a specific example for you.

What were your creative outlets – musical or otherwise – before your involvement with White Manna? How do you think those experiences – either positive or negative – influenced what you’ve done with White Manna? What has been the most surprising aspect of the band thus far for you?

I didn’t pick up the guitar until I was in my late 20’s. Before that, I wrote poetry a lot, and surfing was and is an expressive outlet for me. I painted and drew as well. I’m not quite certain how these experiences have influenced White Manna, but they definitely have … I think because I picked up an instrument later than all of my band-mates, that has had a large affect on our approach. If I was a really good guitar player we’d suck … I don’t think I’m surprised by any aspect of the band …

While we’ll never be accused of being audiophiles and we know as much about recording techniques as we know about … something we know nothing about … one of the many things that keeps us returning to your self-titled debut album is that is just sounds transcendentally L-O-U-D to these ears, yet somehow retains its form, if that makes any sense. Are we projecting our own impressions on to the recording, or was it in fact recorded at extremely high volumes? Is there a certain magic, a certain trance-state that can be achieved with the aid of extraordinarily loud amplification? Who do you think is the loudest band you’ve ever experienced live?

Our self-titled album was recorded live in a warehouse, with the exception of the vocals being overdubbed. It was recorded at our usual volume levels – which are pretty loud. I think high volume can create a much more powerfully sonic landscape, for a listener and for ourselves, too. Also, fuzz and distortion can sound very dull if they’re not at certain decibels. Tavan Anderson, our drummer, plays very loud, too – so it just makes sense to crank the amps. It’s a lot fun …

We rarely ask directly about any personal experience with psychedelic substances for a variety of reasons, but we think it’s probably fair game when the opening track on an album is the seemingly unambiguously named “Acid Head”? What can you tell us about the inspiration for this song? Are we hearing the lyrics correctly when we hear the refrain, “Rise, rise, won’t you rise”? How, if at all, do these words relate to your personal psychedelic experiences? Have you ever heard the 1967 song “Acid Head” by The Velvet Illusions? Were you aware that the singer/organist for The Velvet Illusions was named Steve Weed? WEED! GET IT?!?

I really am not certain how the lyrics to this song came about. I just wrote it down and didn’t think about it much. I often like the rhythm and sounds that words make rather than putting weight on their meanings. Often it’s a little of both meaning and sound that comprise the lyrics, and there are always happy accidents involved in this process. “Acid Head” by The Velvet Illusions is a really great song. I was not aware his name was Steve Weed …

Another aspect of the album that keeps us coming back is the fact that, alongside the immediate appeal of the pedal-to-the-medal amplification and riff-o-rama, the album also seems to have a core of a somewhat yearning, exploratory spirituality – which perhaps begins with the album cover itself. Again, are we projecting our own impressions upon the album, or was this something you were consciously trying to express or address through the music of White Manna? Can you think of an album or artist who has very directly impacted or expanded your own personal spirituality? In what way?

I would say that just being surrounded by such untamed natural beauty and endless, untainted landscapes are humbling and spiritual in themselves. I don’t think any of this was a conscious effort to convey a message or messages – it’s just the way in which we approach the music and play together.

I think all music can have spiritual aspects, probably most often dependent upon each listener …

Most of my favorite albums have changed me spiritually – the list is very long. My first copy of the Lungfish album, “Rainbows from Atoms,” is the first one that comes to mind, though there were many before. I was eighteen years old and the album became a rite of passage for me spiritually and mentally. The lyrics are still some of my favorites.

Would you care to comment on the rumor – the rumor that we are attempting to start right now – that you’ll soon release a three-way split live album recorded alongside guitarist extraordinaire Carlos Santana and pop sensation Miley Cyrus, entitled, “WHITE-MANNA-HANNAH-MONTANA-SANTANA”?

Maybe we’ll get paid …

What music have you been listening to lately? If push comes to shove, what’s your favorite MC5 song of all-time and why? Please show your work.

Lately: Terry Riley, The Misunderstood, Tjutjuna, Chrome, Alice Coltrane, Can, Skip Spence, Carlton Melton, Death, Erkin Koray, Sun Ra, Cosmic Jokers, Rocket From the Tombs, Eternal Tapestry …

“Head Sounds (Part Two)” would be my favorite MC5 song. It’s a twelve-minute freak out and could have gone longer. It has a lot of energy and a lot of free jazz in that song, too. “Future Now” would be a close second….

In his book “The Mission of Art,” Alex Grey writes the following:

“The apparently solid phenomenal world is really a world of subtle energetic vibration. Each material object has its own vibrational frequency. In physics this corresponds to the electron shells of the atom, the atomic vibration. Likewise there is a pranic or subtle conscious force linked with all objects. If all objects are truly vibratory force fields, then attuning to the vibrational frequency of a work of art does not seem odd. The viewer becomes a psychometrist, a psychic who ‘reads’ objects, getting a ‘vibe’ from a work of art.”

Your thoughts?


What’s next for White Manna?

Our second album, “Dune Worship,” is coming out August 26, 2013, on Holy Mountain Records. We will be traveling most of the month of September. First, we’re going to play a few shows in New Jersey, Philadelphia and New York City, and then we will be flying to Berlin to begin a twenty-one city tour in Europe and England.

Connect with White Manna on Facebook.
Their self-titled debut LP is still available from Holy Mountain Records.


One Response to “WHITE MANNA”


  1. BAND OF THE WEEK: WHITE MANNA | Revolt of the Apes - May 6, 2015

    […] of this ridiculous website, we’ve praised and investigated the output of White Manna again and again. If “Pan” isn’t White Manna’s finest work (and to these ears, it’s absolutely nothing […]

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