Monday, October 19, 2009

Wooden Shjips Interview

San Francisco trance-rockers Wooden Shjips will embark on their first ever string of shows on the East Coast of the US in October 2009. The band will play a show at Cafe Nine in New Haven on October 27th with Brooklyn's psychedelic mind benders The Stoned Ambassadors. It's going to be a night of wild soundscapes and weirdness of all kinds.

They just organized a show called The Frisco Freakout - a trippy festival in CA. In addition to the Cafe Nine show, Wooden Shjips will be playing The Elevens in Northampton on the 28th. They'll also be providing the soundtrack to The Wicker Man the night before Halloween at 92Y Tribeca in NYC (holy crap!)

I talked to lead singer/guitarist Ripley of Wooden Shjips a little about the upcoming show, and it turns out he's a super nice guy:

JH: You guys have changed a lot since you're early sound, and it seems like you've got a lot more direction. Do you feel like this was just a natural progression? Was transforming into a (relatively) more conventional sound always something at the back of your mind?

R: We've never really had a plan. And I don't think we have more direction now, we just change direction a bit as we go along. I don't know if I'd call it a progression, but our recorded sound has changed from release to release. It mostly has to do with wanting to take different approaches and try new things in the studio. But I'm not sure we sound all that different. Some might say it's the same thing over and over again.

JH: I remember reading somewhere that one of the guys in the band is from CT, how does it feel to be coming back and playing such a culturally devoid wasteland after being in SF for so long? Anything you miss about the East Coast?

R: Well in places like San Francisco, where there is a lot going on, people can get jaded or take it for granted. Some of the best places to play are towns where not much goes on. I hope Connecticut isn't as bad as you say! But we're excited to be coming through. Touring is full of unknowns and usually the best shows happen where you don't expect them. That's part of the fun.

JH: Full of unknowns, eh? Do you have any good road stories? Anything really interesting happen out there?

R: Well, when we arrive in a particular town or city we usually have no idea what the venue is like, who the promoter is, what the crowd will be like, where we're staying for the night, etc... So you have to be open to whatever transpires. I guess a good example would be when we played Estonia this past June. We had two shows there. The first was in Talinn, in their modern art museum, which was a really stunning modern building. Very up-scale. A few hundred people, most of them shockingly beautiful and dressed to the nines. Great show, everyone danced. Next night we played a birthday party in the woods in the countryside. When we arrived in the afternoon it appeared everyone had been tripping for hours, some naked, covered in mud, swimming, stumbling, drinking, smoking. In the middle of nowhere. Quite a different experience. Both amazing shows and complete surprises.

JH: What kind of music do you listen to yourself?

R: I listen to all kinds of things. Looking at my recently played pile here, there's Henry Flynt and C.C Hennix, a Pebbles' Highs in the Mid Sixties comp, Sun Araw, the Heads, Kurt Vile, Liquorball, Suicide, Blues Control, Serge Gainsbourg, La Dusseldorf, Bobby D and the Band, The Seeds, Tatoo You, Santana, Limbus 4, Miles Davis, Judee Sill, Cecil Taylor, Mirrors. I could on. I'm terrible about putting records away.

JH: I'm kind of a gear nut; what does your pedalboard look like?

R: I currently use: MXR Distortion+, MXR Phase 100, Electro Harmonix Memory Man, Klon Centaur and Real McCoy Custom wah.

JH: The MXR D+ is a hell of a pedal, but they're notorious for either sounding really good or really terrible. And though I've never tried one, I'm sure the Klon Centaur is just fantastic.

R: Yeah, I lucked out with my Distortion+. I think it's from the 70's. The Centaur is great.

JH: Any special pre-show rituals? Things you do to warm up?

R: Nope.

JH: How did the Frisco Freakout go, by the way?

R: It was really nice. All of the bands were great, big mellow crowd. A couple of true legends played: Billy Miller and Steve Mackay. So that was special.

JH: So what's the deal with the 92Y Tribeca Wicker Man screening party?

R: They're screening the original movie and Robin Hardy, the director, will be showing clips from the sequel he's making. Then there will be a few bands playing music from or inspired by the film. We've worked out a few covers. That's all I know. I'm a big fan of the movie.

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