August 2009 - SAMSARA BLUES EXPERIMENT
I had been looking forward to do an interview with musician/music journalist Christian Peters for a long time. The reasons for this were simple. Firstly I really like his old band TERRAPLANE, who, unfortunately, have only released one proper studio album during their short existence. Secondly I like his new band SAMSARA BLUES EXPERIMENT much more. Their demo is very promising, combining Indian raga music with heavy psychedelic rock. The result is very pleasing and ambitious, so it's no surprise that this young German band played a couple of shows in the USA at the beginning of 2009. Thirdly, Christian Peters is running his own webzine Electric Magic, previously known under the name Generated-X. There he proves his musical knowledge, and it's always nice to see a site that isn't crammed with weird and half-baked ramblings. Therefore, there are enough reasons for an interview. The outcome of our talk is decidedly detailed, and I would recommend to take enough time for reading.
Hello, Chris. Before we talk about the beginning of your new band, let's take a look at the latest activities. Not too long ago, you've been in the USA where you played a couple of shows together with Farflung. I can imagine that it was an interesting experience for such a young band like SAMSARA BLUES EXPERIMENT (SBE). Who organized the tour and when was the idea born to make this trip?
Hey Klaus. Talking about the beginning of our USA tour, it all started with a mail on Myspace when the guys of Redwood Curtain Booking wrote to us. They organize these so called 'The Future is unwritten' festivals in Humboldt County (basically Arcata and/or Eureka). I still remember the lines from their mail, like â€œHey guys, love your musicâ€¦ how about your plans for touring the US?â€ and I was like what the fuck, this band (at least the line-up back at this time) does not even exist a half year and people want us to play America! I got some mails from Americans though and many great comments on our videos and music, but playing shows there sounded a bit unbelievable. Right after this myspace-mail we had a little talk in the rehearsal room â€“ at this time we were still a three-piece with Thomas and Richard â€“ and decided to just do it. Also we had only like four songs at this time but worked very hard for the tour and acual set. At this point we ONLY thought of touring California as it seemed â€œbig enoughâ€ for us.
All this happened in August/September 2008 by the way â€“ SBE haven't played one live show anywhere at this time. Unbelievable? Yes! So I started to write to the Californian bands that came to my mind like Earthless, Ancestors and Heavy Water Experiments if they were interested to play with us â€“ as we only had one possible gig in Humboldt â€“ and for our own astonishment, all of them were really cool and open to play a show with us! They would even lend us their equipmentâ€¦ BUT we still had to organize the concerts, look for locations and had almost no idea how to do this. So we decided for a second option and asked Redwood Curtain to book some more shows for us. Quite at the same time I got a mail from Laurel of 420 Trainwreck Internet Radio, who has always been a fan of my previous band TERRAPLANE. She told me about Tommy Grenas of Farflung, who was interested in our music and about the possibility of playing with them. I knew Farflung only by the name back then, but wrote to Tommy and he was very enthusiastic for the whole thing from the start. He would organize some shows in California! You can imagine how fucking exciting this is for such a young band! So we would do a tour â€“ in CALIFORNIA!
But for the whole time we expected not too much, we were just realistic, with only one fucking Demo-CD in the backhand. We knew for such a â€œprojectâ€ our expenses would be a lot higher than what we would get back from the concerts, so it wasnâ€™t important to play as many shows there, even if we thought of ten concerts in the best case. Most important for us was the â€œExperience USAâ€. Thatâ€™s why we stayed for 23 days on the West Coast. We wanted to see, feel, breathe and even taste America ;-). Anyway in February 2009 we had a tour of seven concerts: Redwood Curtain did Eureka, Salem (Oregon), Seattle and Bremerton (Washington), Farflung did two very cool shows in Los Angeles and San Francisco and our tourmates of Nudity arranged a concert in Olympia. Later Treetarantula organized a second show for us in Seattle, on the day after we played there the first time. We owe a lot to all of them, at least our deepest respect and gratitude. Only from these few line you can understand that in a certain way we feel â€œblessedâ€ to have had such a chance. All lend us their complete backline (some cool stuff like vintage Orange and Sunn Amps), let us stay in their houses and so onâ€¦ So yeah, we had a real good time you know.
That's a really an amazing story, and I would say that you're really blessed. It's like a win on the lottery, especially because the band was still at the beginning. Aside from the fact that each band was very supportive, how was the reaction of the audience? How many people came to the shows? You also met Tony Reed from Mos Generator (R.I.P.)/Stone Axe, and stayed and jammed at his house. Please, tell me more about it, because it sounds really interesting.
All shows were quite different from each other. Not only hundreds of miles were in between, also the venues were so much different, so I should tell you more details at least from the impressive ones. The most professional concerts (by chosen venues) have been LA and SF â€“ the two shows with Farflung. And when you think we're blessed already, what do you think when I tell you that we even have been headlining the LA show and should do same in SF? Also the bassplayer of Sky Saxon's (The Seeds) American band played guitar with the opening act. Not enough: a light-show guy (Sorry forgot his name.), who has been working with Hawkwind did lights on both shows. After our very cool show in SF he even bought two SBE shirts...haha... great.
It was truly unbelievable, we were treated like â€œstarsâ€ sometimes. Not that we feel like this actually, but all of the bands and guys in the clubs showed so much respect for us coming over there and everyone has been full of excitement. Of course, relatively few people knew or still know us, but it seems that Germany has a â€œstrange attractionâ€ to some Americans. We spoke with quite many people whose ancestors have been Germans. Some always asked us for some phrases in German and repeated them like mantras, hahaâ€¦ I even heard of one guy in SF who only came to the show because there was a German band playing. â€œIn Germany we call itâ€¦â€ was one of the most used phrases for us anywayâ€¦ so much fun mixing languages. So in the end we had concerts with a 50 people audience in LA (though it wasn't the best idea to play after Farflung in their hometown â€“ they exist for 20 years you knowâ€¦), 80 in SF and in all the other cities - except Seattle - a lot less due to various reasons. It's been the beginning or middle of the week then and concert-promotion apart LA, SF, Eureka and the first Seattle gig almost didnâ€™t exist.
When we recognized this we even went around Downtown Olympia for hanging up our own posters. In fact many things went on other ways over there, in some venues we didnâ€™t play a single note before 11 pm, without a proper soundcheck or that we have gotten anything to eat (Looking for good food was the whole tours most difficult quest!), while in SF we got a bottle of whiskey plus food and stuff. In fact SF remains the best show. The audience, the venue itself (Bottom Of The Hill!) and our set simply rocked. But we enjoyed every or most of the concerts. Only Bremerton and Salem were a bit â€œweirdâ€. In Salem we played on a Monday night in front of 15 people. The venue looked a bit like my Grandparents living room, with sofas and little lamps and stuff like that and everyone was just sitting there and staring at us. A bit strange you knowâ€¦ We didnâ€™t feel â€œlinkedâ€ with the audience there. Also on the day after in Bremerton it wasn't the place or time for us, we had problems with the sound-system and people seemed not so much interested in this long-winded psychedelic stuff we do. In the end there were only Tony Reed and his lady, the guys of Nudity and like three other guys to witness our 30 minute epos 'Double Freedom'. I was destroyed, but these things happen.
Tony also organized the concert in Bremerton after he got a call from the Redwood Curtain guys. He was very, very friendly in any way. He gave us like ten CD's of Mos Generator, Stone Axe and other stuff, maybe just because he felt pity when I told him that we have to listen to this one stonerrock sampler again and again and again, as we haven't taken any CD's of our own over the pond and the radio-stations in Oregon and most parts of the countryside just played shit music. The only cool radio channel seemed 'The Bone' in SF. They really rockâ€¦ on the other hand there's a lot of very weird Mexican music in California and very old-fashioned 'Hillbillie'-tunes in Oregon (Does anyone remember the music in 'Mars Attacks' what they â€œusedâ€ to kill all the aliens? Exactly this kind of stuff!). So after the show in Bremerton we also went to Tony's house in Port Orchard, since he offered us to spend the night there. And even as it felt a bit funny when we entered a side way that led us inside a forest - with an opening street-sign that said 'Dead End' - this became one of the coolest moments of the trip.
Those who don't know Tony or his bands should check them out immediately. What a damn good musician this guy is! I felt like a little boy watching him, playing guitar on one of his good dozen of vintage Laney amps and taking over drums right after. He said he spents all day playing in his house. I believe him, though we still wonder where the hell he has got all the money to buy all his fantastic equipment. The house is split in two parts and this second part, where we also slept, is his studio and it is full of most exciting amps and guitars and records. He even has got a Mellotron, what was once of Bob Rock (the producer of Metallica). We felt somehow like entering 'Willy Wonkas Chocolate Factory'.
Oh yeah, it's really interesting, that some Americans have some kind of attraction to the German language and the country. Like you said, I suppose it belongs to the days when some of the first immigrants came over from here to start a new life there. But it's great to hear that most of your shows were so amazing. By the way, I agree with you that more people should check out Mos Generator and Stone Axe. Excellent stuff! But let's go back to your own band. What is you conclusion about the tour? Would you do it again or is there something you would like to change if possible?
The conclusion is that all of us are full of images, impressions and memories. We seen so much new things, experienced the almost "shocking" beauty and diversity of the American nature (Have you ever woken up in the Redwood Forest or seen the sun go down beyond the Pacific Ocean?). Also we met so many people over there: friendly people, funny and weird people of all kind and color. As we stayed for 23 long days, there's been quite many, even apart the "official side": Guys we used to hang out with here or there in hostels, camp-grounds and so on, though most of them I guess we'll never see again. But I hope that with the bands Farflung, Nudity and Treetarantula we can stay in contact and repeat this tour as soon as it's possible. Also because theres so much left on the way to discover still you know ;-)...
Tony Reed by the way never replied any of our mails after we came back, what is weird. I hope he is still alive. For a moment - when we were jamming a bit in his house and were talking about 70's Rock and stuff (both of us love that period more than anything else in music) - I even could imagine to do something with him and Stone Axe, but maybe he has other plans and who knows what the future will bring, but all the guys in SBE would love to return for sure. Even if next time we would make sure that someone promotes our concerts (better), so we wouldn't end up like in Salem. Nudity and we got ten bucks each on that night and earned more by selling merchandise, haha... well... you know that side of touring really sucks.
Yes, it can be annoying. But it's good to know that you had a good time over there in the USA. What for an intense and important experience for a new band like yours. But actually, you've been around and playing music before you formed SBE. Maybe some readers remember you from your old band TERRAPLANE. Sad to say, that they broke-up, but SBE is definitely a strong successor, but what was the reason for the end of your old band?
Well I have been around in several bands for ten years now and almost seven of them were dedicated to TERRAPLANE. Actually you have to consider that the band broke up a first time already in 2005 when our original drummer Andreas Herbst left. Somehow we felt the spirit been gone, even though we had other drummers till the definite end in 2007. That's also a reason why we had chosen another name and called the band GREEN MONKEY for a couple of months. TERRAPLANE were from the very start brainchild of singer and bassplayer Christian Oelke and me, but became "mature" with the initiation of Andreas.
After the Nasoni Records re-release of 'Into The Unknown' and a few concerts in a complete different line-up (Oelke just singing, Florian Furtner on bass and with Edward Bernatek a more than 20 years older drummer) some things became too complicated to handle, our "spirit" seemed complete gone or at least became a very different one. I don't want to say there was no spirit at all and we played only lame pop rock (at least we managed to arrange a pretty cool 'Snowblind' cover, even though it's never been never recorded), but we couldn't even do a jam and that was one of the basic "principles" in our band. Also we became tired of changing the band's shape so often, theres been no other good musicians for TERRAPLANE in the Harz area (we all were from around Wernigerode), some important clubs have been closed and also many people and friends had moved to other areas where life for young people is more entertaining while "our" city Wernigerode became more and more a residential area for old farts haha...
In Summer 2007 I also decided to leave this provincial area and move to Berlin due to various reasons, so in any way it would have become difficult to rehearse and I really felt it was time for that change! Theres no hard feeling from my side, though the one or other of us seems to be more attached to the TERRAPLANE "spirit". I learned to be thankful to the experience. But many things were completely different compared to SBE. For example I never felt so secure or confident with TERRAPLANE when we were playing live, though I can't say I didn't enjoy. It was just another thing, even if the music was quite similar.
Yeah, sometimes it's better to let it go and make a change. But you can be proud of TERRAPLANE and 'Into The Unknown' is a real good record. It's unique and although your sound was deep-seated in the heavy rock of the 70's you came up with your own musical vision. The band's leaving present was 'Low Tide & Shockwave', a self-released compilation featuring unreleased and different versions of your songs. Did you ever look for a proper record label release for 'Low Tide & Shockwave' and is it still available?
Ah yeah thanks, Klaus. Actually I haven't ever thought many people could like the music of TERRAPLANE, not BEFORE 'Into The Unknown' was re-released on Nasoni Records. By the way, by coincidence I have seen that our record is sold for 45 Bucks on Stonerrock.com/All That's Heavy Store. That's sheer madness! It seems a bit weird, maybe we had a little lack of self-confidence, though times or trends for music were different in 2003 - 2006. "Re-animated" 70's psychedelic heavy rock was very much "underground", especially in Germany I presume.
Also we were so much unexperienced and "provincial" at this time. We never played somewhere except in very small venues in very small German towns. Before 2006 there was no Myspace with guys from all over the world who wrote you comments like "I really dig this shit" .. haha... Nonetheless one might acclaim that there have been like 12 outputs with TERRAPLANE. Many self-released EP's on CD-R and albums, but also we had a lot of bad luck with the products of our provincial studios. Of course they had no clue how we wanted to sound like. Not that hardcore or Limp Bizkit stuff they were used to, nor that screamo, punk or metal.
Two complete albums 'Orange Sunshine' and 'Psychedelic Wonderland' were kinda like destroyed by real bad studiomixes... and we had no idea to help it. Money for studioworks was the even bigger problem. So in the end, desperately, we sold like 100 CD-R items of these albums and never did more copies because we were so much unhappy with it and didn't want to go further. There's really a lot of stuff and many songs that got lost. Even good songs, but what can I say, the original tracks got lost for real and the finally mixed versions are too often really crappy. Concerning 'Low Tide', as you said that was a kind of Best Of-Release from those few tracks we could identify with still, though we weren't really satisfied with the sound.
Actually we never tried to find a label to re-releases anything of the old stuff. Iguess it was because we haven't had a good experience with Nasoni Records and as I said we weren't too much optimistic anybody would be interested still. So okay it's two years since the split now and for me, definitely, TERRAPLANE is history. 'Low Tide' seems sold out and at this point there's no concrete plan to re-release anything, but maybe one day I will, on alternative ways without involving third parties.
Shit, I didn't know that two of your unreleased albums have been mutilated by incompetent producers. One more proof that listening to crap like Limp Bizkit (it makes me sick to write that name) can seriously damage your brain. Well, TERRAPLANE is history and it's about time to focus our attention on your new band SAMSARA BLUES EXPERIMENT. You've recorded one excellent demo in 2008, and received a lot of good feedback. What I really like is that Raga element in your music as well as the warm and free flowing heavy sound. How do you create your songs, Chris? Do you start with a main riff or what's going on in your rehearsel room?
Well, it's the bigger shame that the original tracks got lost, otherwise I DEFINITELY would remix and re-release everything you know. And thanks again Klaus, I am still kinda overwhelmed by all the good reviews for SBE, just because when I came up with the idea it was like "this time I am gonna do something really PSYCHEDELIC and really HEAVY by meaning INTENSIVE, some far out stuff that maybe only a few dozen guys would listen to, BUT they would become real addicts". A kind of "weird" vision... But speaking about the whole feeling I see TERRAPLANE way less intense then SBE has already been with the release of this demo.
We just played together only for one or two months when we recorded the first demo. I have been playing around with some other guys before, most of the time in very very loose concepts. We only had the main line of 'Double Freedom' and the structure of 'Singata', not even half of the lyrics and I was improvising a lot, which actually became a bit stressing as no one can deliver high quality (and I am very much demanding) with every strike and sometimes we simply sucked.
So for instance 'Double Freedom' started off as a "innocent love song" that may remind a bit of my SOULITUDE project, where I do this kind of acid psych. We put this first version on our special release for the US-Tour and it can be downloaded from our website as well. So, by time 'Double Freedom' grew up to almost a thirty-minute epic. I still don't know how haha, maybe just because we still like jamming and droning in low frequencies, but also added some more riffing from rehearsal to rehearsal. Anyway there is no straight concept for us, neither about how we come up with a song, nor in which direction this or that song might lead us. Sometimes someone has got an idea, a riff and we work it out. Other times we just make a lot of noise ;-). 'Army Of Ignorance', which is one of our coolest songs at least in my opinion, was written almost completely by bass player Richard. I have been lucky to find very talented young guys to build up this band. SBE is very much part of my personality, but also Richard, Thomas and Hans have a growing influence on everything we do. And unto now this works really good.
Yeah, it's easier to lose oneself in the huge sound of SBE, even if you don't consume any kind of mind-altering substances. It's intense, and I can't wait to see you live for the first time. But, hey, we've to make a short break here, because you've mentioned SOULITUDE. Honestly, I hear that name for the first time, so I suggest that you tell me a little bit more about it before we continue with SBE.
Oh really? Okay actually it's no big surprise, though everything is linked in times of Myspace, I never did so much promotion about this. I do SOULITUDE for almost ten years now. Imagine me sitting at home with loads of soundeffects and a guitar and record "my" weird stuff at the same time as I create it. At least that's what I did for the last record. Sometimes also the guitar is in quite "wicked" tunings and I don't mean standard open tunings for playing slide guitar etc., I mean really weird tunings that make the guitar sound like an Indian or Arabian instrument. Most of them I can't remember at all. I should note them somewhere.
A bit chaotic maybe, just to fit the artist-clichÃ© haha... So most of the times I do these sounds very spontaneously. Lately I added also sitar, acoustic guitar, mandoline and keys and most of the stuff you know from my "real" bands but more experimental. It's like at least five layers of guitar on every song. VERY psychedelic AND no drums until now. One time only I used a drumcomputer. In this project I also sang for the very first time ("public"). I have to thank my girl-friend a lot for encouraging me so much. Otherwise who knows, even SBE would still look for a singer? SOULITUDE is my most personal music project but also a kind of playground. So in the first years I told only people "I knew good enough to know if they might like it or not" about this. Fortunately I began to be more open, so here's the link for the brave person who read our interview till this very point:
Let us return to SBE. The demo was very promising, but when can we expect the first full-length? Do you have any plans?
Oh well, matter of fact the album is almost finished. At least recording and mixing. Also the artworks are almost done. I guess that the final works on these will be finished within August. Afterwards we will decide which label to take, as we want to release it on vinyl and so we are in need for a deal. Also later on there has to be done a proper mastering and we haven't yet decided whos job this will be. So I really can't promise anything, but hope that we can manage to release our first album in late Autumn or Winter this year. You have to know that it's supposed to become a very detailed, almost conceptional, album and we care a lot for every - even small - part of it.
That sounds really good and interesting. I can't wait to hear it. Apart of being a musician, you're also running your own webzine Electric Magic, previously known as Generated-X. When did you begin and what was the reason for that decision?
We started in early 2006 (around March?), initially on my idea that's right. It came up simply because a German (speaking) stoner (psych/doom/space and so on) zine was missing. At least I haven't heard of someone else doing it, not DEDICATED to "stoner music" exclusively and I would say we are. Okay I know there are some metal zines that mention stoner releases here or there. But I can't stand their (often too much) superficial stuff to read, like many always write "oh here's another band that sounds like Black Sabbath"... I find these pretty much annoying even. I won't say ALL of them do, but too many of the more popular ones. So I wanted to do start up something more "specific", to give people who are interested a deeper "in-sight", you know. People who maybe won't speak English that good and find it rather tiring to read about some interesting music only in english as the best sites seem to be only in english (Cosmic Lava, Monolith, The Obelisk, Roadburn back in the days...).
Thanks a lot for the compliment, Chris. That feels really good. I agree with you, because a lot of sites have no further interest than receiving tons of promo discs, instead of guiding the listener to the thicket of releases. How do you rate the current situation of the "our" music community?What, for example, do you think about the ever-increasing number of releases?
There must be a reason why you're around for ten years Klaus ;-). But speaking about my own intention... actually I had to slow down works on the mag. I really can't write about everything that's newly released, can't interview every band or artist I would like to interview, can't write about everything that's on my mind (artcles like the "history of rock lessons")... neither the rest of our small crew can't manage to do so. We all have jobs, bands and other things to do besides and still Electric Magic is "only" a fanzine, though dedicated to the music itself. So speaking about reviews for instance we concentrate only on a couple of current releases that in our opinion are worthy to be mentioned. Though I won't say that the number of releases is really "ever-increasing", at least not on the higher levels. There is and for long terms there has been a lot of, well... let's name it crap. I have received some CD's that were really making me worry for the people who released that stuff ;-(...
I had some really weird things here on my desk haha... seems like some people really have no clue what our magazine or what the term "stonerrock" is about. Okay you may say it became a pretty blurry description for a whole lotta things and influences and maybe everyone has his own idea what stonerrock is... I don't know. Well, just speaking about "stoner-relevant" releases (what I consider stonerrock ;-)...) I think the scene became a bit more transparent when you are really into it. There's a few really good bands around that deserve all the attention they get and a lot less kinda fancy wanna-be-stoner-bands with namedroppings from Kyuss-songs. Also I appreciate that more and more bands tend to play the more old-schoolish 70's style... though in these days I find it most "appealing" when a band does their own thing and not trying to copy others by trying to play what seems "popular" somehow you know.
Yes, sometimes it's horrific, and unfortunately there is also a lot of false information out there. Most sites are completely redundant, but it's good to know that they have a short life span. Well, ok, let's change the topic. As far as I remember you were involved in the Bad Acid magazine and you're drawing poster etc. Please, tell us something about it.
Oh well Bad Acid... you know from time to time I am happy to do some layouts for Dave. Back in Summer 2007 I did the cover for Tab 7 and it was like one of my first jobs for Sun Art and also how it all began somehow. In the last one and a half year I did gigposters and flyers for bands like Colour Haze, Witchcraft, Dozer, Blue Cheer, Graveyard, Dead Man, Hypnos 69 among many others, cd-artworks for Fuzz Manta and Ponamero Sundown and some other things like graphics for shirts and so on. Of course I keep on doing artworks for SAMSARA BLUES EXPERIMENT, even though I hope one day we'll have the chance to get some other artists in the boat. I am a bit tired to do so much on my own for my band haha... I was a big fan of Kozik you know... back in the 90s when Mans Ruin was around and he did all these cool things.
Ok, we are done yet, Chris. It was a pleasure to do this interview with you, and I'm grateful for your comprehensive answers. Is there anything you would like to add at the end?
My pleasure Klaus, thanks for your interest and best wishes for you and the mag.