The venerably rocking Kazoo! Fest is turning 9 years awesome this week and they are celebrating with three days of shows (featuring 9 bands) from June 10-12. In keeping with the venerable rocking awesomeness, the Skeletones Four will be releasing their new album Petrified Forest (Squirtgun Records) on Friday Jun12th at the eBar. Already garnering great reviews and on sale on iTunes, the Skeletones new album will open up your skull with some proggy jabs at bliss. Not wanting to put flowery words into the mouths of rock and roll slayers and powerful sound occultists, I spoke with lead vocalist/ghost summoner Andrew Collins in the crumbling graveyard of my inbox. He struck me as a man well-possessed.
- Brad de Roo, who believes ghosts have an integral haunt in music, if only to remind us of the song’s coming end
Have you ever been to a petrified forest? What do you think they sound like?
I’ve driven through Petrified Forest National Park on highway 40 in Arizona but I was too overheated to stop and explore. Driving through the desert with no air conditioning is hot and you get weird looks from the locals when you stop for gas drenched in sweat. I imagine the faint murmuring moans of ghost trees and the gentle sound of wind blowing across sand and rock.
Who’s in the band? What does each bring to the band table? What kind of food is in on this table, anyway? Drinks? Books? Does it have a ‘Dinner Bell’?
The band you can expect to hear on Friday is as follows: Jordan Howard on the guitar, Paul Lowman on the bass guitar, and John Merritt on the trap drums. Evan Gordon plays bass on the album and joins us on stage from time to time on the keyboards in between jet setting adventures. Everyone brings whatever they decide to heap onto their plate after circling the all-you-can-eat buffet a few times. There’s no ‘Dinner Bell’ but a certain member is often spotted at Taco Bell.
You strike me as a guy who likes different time signatures. Do you have a favourite? Why? Is there one that bugs you?
Different time signatures can be exciting but I never want them to take attention away from the song itself or to be the reason that a song exists. It’s hard to pick, there are so many to choose from - 6/8 and 9/8 are both very good. Same with 5/4 and 7/4. 4/4 might still take the crown for a top rock ‘n’ roll signature and can be very effective when used the right way.
Let’s play musical influences in four questions. A) Have you ever listened to or would you ever listen to Steely Dan? B) Do you like Robert Wyatt? C) Who has the best synth sound? D) Who has influenced you the least?
A. I have listened to Steely Dan, and plan on doing so again - mostly side A of Pretzel Logic. I’ve sung 'Rikki Don’t Lose That Number' at karaoke once.
B. I like Robert Wyatt although I’ve never gone too deep into his catalogue. I spent a summer walking around listening to a dubbed copy of Rock Bottom on a cassette Walkman. I’ve listened to the first Soft Machine album quite a bit as well.
C. French electronic music producer Jean Michel Jarre
D. Finnish electronic music producer Darude.
I’ve often heard your music described as ‘psychedelic’. Does this term have any particular meaning to you?
I guess the music we make might be enjoyed when paired with jazz cigarettes but a lot of music is. In my mind the term might describe music containing interesting sounds and sound combinations, rhythms, textures, and layers that reveal themselves over subsequent listenings, rather than being a throwback to the hippy-dippy music of the nineteen-sixties. I’m not sure we are a psychedelic band but it might be more descriptive than just saying, “we make rock and roll”.
Have you ever met a ‘Ghost Dude’ in real life?
I haven’t, but I hope to.
Ever had a ‘Phantom Love’?
Your Press Play on Tape EP had 8-bit versions of some of the songs found on Petrified Forest. What attracts you to video game sound? Do you have favourite video game soundtracks? Ever thought of soundtracking one yourself? I’d play a Skeletones game, in a second.
The attraction is probably a nostalgic thing, and the lo-fidelity of those old video game sounds is very appealing to me. It’s nice to be able to write music that only a superhuman alien could perform without the pressure of having to play it myself. Once the notes are programmed in, all I have to do is press play and the songs will be performed with computer precision at whatever tempo I choose. Super Mario Bros 2 was a favorite of mine - by pausing the game the chords and melody would drop out and you would be left with bass and drums. Dr. Mario had two songs you could choose from: ‘Fever’ and ‘Chill’. Both were very good and are now etched into my brain after hours of gameplay. I would love to write the soundtrack to a game but I think it would have to be an old-fashioned sidescroller or action puzzle game like Dr. Mario.
Absolutely. I would try to make it as horrifying as possible!
Revisiting songs seems to be something that intrigues you. How do you know when a recording is done – not to mention a collection of them?
If I feel like I did a good job the first time I won’t go back and re-record a song. In the case of ‘The Fish Rots From the Head’, the version on our first album was a demo and the new version is more representative of how the band plays the song live. ‘Ether Bunny’ was a song that I played and recorded with The Faceless Lazers but we continued playing it when the S4 got together so it made sense to record it again.
The framework of all of the songs on Petrified Forest were recorded over a weekend, with the whole band playing in a room together. Some of them had fragments of melodies and lyrics but most of them existed as structures with very little decoration. Once lyrics and melodies were written, vocals recorded and all additional instrumentation overdubbed to the extent where I couldn’t imagine adding anything else the songs were done.
Who did the artwork on the new album? Are those eyes looking directly at ME?
I appropriated elements from children’s books and postcards and reassembled them for the album cover. Those eyes are looking right at you, and will follow you around the room, judging your worth. If that makes you uncomfortable, simply flip the album around backwards or put it back onto your record shelf until you want to listen to it again. Or close your music player/browser window, as the case may be.
You often play in other projects. What else are you involved in now? Anything coming up soon?
I play bass in LCON - Lisa Conway and I have been working hard on recording the new album. We’re also releasing a 7” single at the end of the summer at the Parkdale Film and Video Festival in Toronto. Hopefully we’ll add a Guelph date to that release, either in August or September. I’ll also be joining the Gordon Brothers (formerly The Magic) on stage this Thursday at Silence.
The Kazoo! crew is pretty awesome, hey? Do you have any reflections or tales or hauntings about Kazoo leading up to its 9th Anniversary shows?
The Kazoo crew does so much for music in the city of Guelph - I don’t think there would be too much going on here without them. I have a vague memory of attending one of their house party shows wearing chains and cutoff denim vests and playfully wielding baseball bats. There was a kind of made-up/kind of real rivalry going on between our gang of townies and the Burnt Oak collective who had strong Kazoo! affiliations. There was a breakdancing competition. The jury is still out on who was the victor, but I’m glad that we didn’t scare them away!