February 2005 - VALIS
Many of you might remember the Screaming Trees who released between '86 - '96 some good LP's, 12"'s and 7"'s and received a respectable reputation world-wide. Meanwhile, that's history and not the topic of this interview. After the end of the Trees, Van Connor founded VALIS , which are deeply rooted in the heavy psychedelic rock of the early 70's. Ok, the Trees also draw also a lot of inspiration from psychedelic music, but VALIS are much heavier and closer to early Hawkwind or Black Sabbath than Van Connor's old band. VALIS second album "Head Full Of Pills" is their second promising full-length album, and Small Stone seems to be the suitable label for their mulicoloured heavy sound. So, let's see what Van Connor is thinking about it....
Hello Van, would you describe VALIS as a psychedelic band?
Yes, that is definitly what we like to be called. Psych. Mood and mind altering attempted at every turn.
What various line up changes, if any, have VALIS undergone since it's formation?
When we started it was myself, Kurt from Tad and Dan from Mudhoney, along with my younger brother Patrick. We made a split cd with Patrick's other band, Kitty Kitty for Man's Ruin.For our first full length, "Vast Active Living Intelligence System" Dan had left the band and was replaced by former King Krab/Screaming Tree Drummer Sean Hollister. (Sean Toured alot with the Trees in Europe and the States but was never on any recordings). During the recording Wes (who was co-producing the cd) joined the band. After that cd Kurt left the band and moved to France. Then we picked up our old Ellensburg friend, Adrian Makins (he played in Kitty Kitty and several other bands). He has a bit different style then Kurt but can pull that off when it is needed. I think the current line up is about as far as you can go. We all are old friends and know each other so well that playing together comes easy. Easy to find that groove to bend the mind.
The latest VALIS latest album is entitled "Head Full Of Pills". After reading the lyrics of the same-titled song and listening again and again to this excellent release, I like to ask you if the entire album is meant as a tribute to psychoactive substances. Do you want to make any comments about psychedelic drugs?
"Head Full Of Pills" is kind of a double meaning. It says somthing about today's world, at least in America eveyone is on some kind of pill. You take a pill for everything. You go to the doctor, what can he do? Give you pills, thats it. I take like 10 different pills a day. I feel sad, take a pill, I feel stressed,take a pill, I want to have sex, take a pill, I want to sleep, take a pill. You see what I mean? But, about psych drugs, we have all used them. We do use them during recording at times. Different songs, different drugs. I must say they are not for everyone. I have a few friends who have destroyed thier minds. Use with caution. The great northwest has free drugs growing everywhere at certain times of the year ;)
I think, on the new album are a lot of Hawkwind-influences to find. What would you say to that comment?
I say, thanks, I agree.
The album has a heavier emphasis on variety than on just rockin' down one monotonous path. How important is this diversity for the music of VALIS?
I think that comes natural with us. Each song is its own little world, its own little story. Part of this comes from having unlimited studio time thanks to Wes and unlimited practice time thanks to Adrian. We can develop each song into somthing different. This is somthing the Trees did as well. I like it.
"World Of Decay" is a very critical song about the state of mankind. What's your general opinion about politicans and do you think that 9/11 had changed the face of the world?
In part that song is a bit of a tribute to the style of old Sabbath. Kind of a War Pigs type thing. I was thinking. This shit is still going on, today, as it was when War Pigs was writen. Thats where the "same as yesterday" words come in. It never ends and this shit has been going on since the dawn of writen history. War. That is what humans do. Make War. If it's not us it was the English, the Germans, back to Rome and Alexander. The Egyptions and all of the South American advanced cultures. Its all about War. We are just lucky we have the bomb. The bomb stops war. Growing up in the cold war, it was a hell of alot safer back then. Even though I thought everyday could be the last. I was at the Berlin Wall before it came down and I was there within a few days of when it came down. I borrowed a hammer from a kid and busted off some of it for myself. But you know what, its all the same shit. War. We are on a one way trip to oblivion so we may as well raise hell getting there.
What visual effects do you use on stage?
Actualy, none at this point. We have a hard enough time having to string up our own guitars. I have thought about trying a few different things. Most clubs have a bit of lights and such. I think it would be cool to have but we are to busy playing the songs to worry about that. We just rock the songs.
When I visited your website www.valisrocks.comI was very surprised about the mass of merchandise you sell. As far as I remember there are also a few baby clothes for sale. Is this a special kind of VALIS humour?
No, not humor, we actualy sold a few of those. I have kids myself and alot of my friends do as well. Start them kids on the VALIS early!
Let's talk a bit about your musical past! It's no secret that you've been part of the Screaming Trees. What do you think is the main difference between VALIS and the Trees?
Well, no Mark, Lee or Barret. Thats about it. Actualy, of course Marks voice was the Trees trademark if you like but I think VALIS might be a bit Trees like because of Patrick, Sean and Adrian all grew up in the same town and were around the same people, went to the same schools. We have alot of the same influences musicaly.
How do you remember the years with the Screaming Trees and are you still in contact with Mark Lanegan or with Greg Ginn from SST?
Not with Greg, but of course with Mark. We talk from time to time. It is like having a brother somewhere who you were close to when you were kids but now you have your own lives. If he comes to town I go see him.
In the thanks-list of the new album I discovered the Napalm Beach. To be honest, I love this band and I asked myself a hundred times if they are still active. Do you have any interesting news about this great gang?
They are one of our favorites of all time. They did get back together and play a few shows with us. They were going to record a new record. Last I heard though they had broken up again. Sad, those shows, they were so great, better then ever.
What prospects do you see for heavy psychedelic rock in the next ten years?
Pain, suffering and more pain.
What sort of things can you see yourselves doing for the next album?
Our next release will be a re-issue of Vast... with 5 new songs. Then we arealready working on the next new cd. It takes the "Head Full Of Pills" feel a bit further. The working title is "Who wants to Live Forever?"
Well, we reached the end of our talk. Thanks a lot and hope to see you soon here in Germany!
Same to you.