Lucid Dreaming by Concentrick

When I hear the guitar of Tim Green it evokes my youth. Whether the frantic post hardcore of Nation of Ulysses or triumphant metal of the Fucking Champs. They both soundtracked that ridiculous time. Also albums he recorded as disparate as Bratmobile, Comets on Fire, and Weakling. At one point in that time I happened upon the soundtrack to the movie Charm. Probably because it was released on 5RC a label I loved and featured bands I dug like the Need, Thrones, Aislers Set, and Deerhoof. But it also featured fantastic and evocative soundtrack music by Tim.  https://www.discogs.com/master/1730111-Various-Charm-Motion-Picture-Soundtrack

It hinted at another side of him. Then I came across the album Lucid Dreaming by his other project Concentrick. https://concentrick.bandcamp.com/ 

Mostly synths and taking you on a somber and sometimes ominous tour of mystical west coast environments of sun dappled beaches and misty lurking forests and evoking Tangerine Dream and Twin Peaks. Now Daft Alliance is putting out a limited reissue of that album so we arranged a quick chat about that album.

>Describe the circumstances of its recording

Most of it was recorded between 2000 and 2002, so a lot of it was done late at night in between studio sessions, cos the studio was pretty busy at that time. Both this album and the previous one were mostly done at night after/in between recording bands, so I had to keep it pretty quiet so I wouldn’t drive my roommates completely insane after a full day of another band blaring in the house.

>What equipment and locations were used?

Most of the stuff was recorded digitally at Louder in SF, except for “Falling Stars”, which was recorded on Vern Rumsey’s 8 track in Olympia when I was still living with him and “Sinking Slowly” which was recorded on a 4 track when I was living in an apartment on San Jose ave, where we also mixed the first Champs album. I used a Wurlitzer electric piano, an upright piano, vibraphone, Micromoog, a Korg Poly-61, a Korg DW-6000, guitar and a tube oscillator I got for five bucks at a thrift store in Portland. I also used an electronic instrument I designed and built called the RMS-2000 and an oscillator built from a kit that I modified, both of which were used on the “Music for Tunnels” album. I think I also used the oscillator on the console for the last song on the album. Also, some beautiful flute and cello which were played by Casey, Lorraine and Sarah.

What was the inspiration to make something this quiet and strange?

I think part of the reason it was quiet was cos I was doing a lot of it late at night and I didn’t wanna wake up my room mates! But I was also listening to a lot of Harmonia, cluster and stuff like that. I didn’t set out to make it strange, I think that just happens cos I’m a weirdo. This was after the “Tender Machines” album and I think I was trying to move more towards organic sounds as opposed to samples and synths, which I moved even more towards with the next album, “Aluminum lake”. I always thought it was kind of a depressing album and reflected some personal turmoil I was going thru, even though in some ways it was some of the best times of my life as far as friendships and The Champs being successful enough to stay in Motel 6’s on tour.

>You were known as a guitarist in loud bands so when did you become interested in synths?

I first got a micromoog in 1993 for $150 from my pal Rick at Guitar Maniacs in Tacoma, but the keys don’t play sequential notes, so I mostly used it for weird noises, or ran other instruments and vocals through it to use the filters. I prototyped the RMS-2000 that same year, but didn’t actually build it until 1995, around the time I moved to SF, when I started recording the “Music For Tunnels” album. When I started playing with The Champs in the beginning of 1996, both Tim and Josh had Korg Poly 61’s, so I started messing around with theirs and eventually bought one myself, which happened to be painted green for some reason when I got it. Around that same time I got really into Tangerine Dream and Edgar Froesse’s solo stuff, partly cos the records were rarely more than a dollar and there were so many of them! I was also listening to a lot of classic kraut rock stuff like Harmonia, Cluster, Kraftwerk, Organization, Neu, Klaus Schulze and some of the Weird Brain Records bands.

>Casey and Sarah from Weakling and Lorraine Rath are the listed guest musicians. How did they get involved?

I knew Casey through Tim from The Champs. We were roommates in SF for a while and she had played on the first Champs album a little bit. I knew Sarah through recording the Weakling album, which Casey was also on. I kind of knew Lorraine from when she used to bartend at the chameleon, which was like The Champs’ home base. We seemed to play there about every 6 weeks for some years. But I got to know her more when we were doing the Gault album, which also featured Sarah and John from Weakling. https://youtu.be/E5qEARQlkks

I was nearing completion of the album when we were doing The Gault album, so I asked them to replace some of the parts I had originally used synths or Mellotron samples for and also wrote some more specific parts for them.

>When did Louder Studios first come into being? Notable moments working there?

The first thing I did there was in late 1997, mixing a Slaves album, but the entire studio wasn’t finished until April of ’98. The Melvins were the first band to track there. They did a T-Rex cover for a compilation John Zorn was doing and another song for a split 7” with the Cosmic Pyschos. They came back over the next few years and worked on six albums, as well as an Altamont album. I think it was through them that Frank Kozik started sending me some bands to work with for his label, Man’s Ruin. It got really busy, at one point I worked for 2 months with only like 5 days off. The studio was in that location for 14 years , so there were a lotta notable moments, but, besides workin with The Melvins (who I was/am a huge fan of), there was a funny time that I was recording this band, Nigel Peppercock. At the same time, Hirax was playing in Mclaren park just down the street. Maus and I went over to watch them and somehow he talked the singer, Katon, into walkin over and singing on one of their songs! It was really cool, Katon was telling us stories about playing shows with Black Flag and other interesting stories. Super nice guy. Also, recording David Yow on some Melvins songs was a memorable moment. I used to go see the Jesus Lizard all the time in the early 90s and Ulysses actually played with them at Maxwell’s in 1990. He was kinda under the weather and wasn’t his usual effervescent self when he sang, so I made him a hot toddy, heavy on the booze. Between that and the twelve pack he brought, he really came to life and I was glad that I had set up two room mics, in addition to the handheld mic, cos we could see him running back and forth through the tiny studio window.

>There is an air of west coast mysticism in this release. The photos of the coast, the hint of Californian new age, and of the Twin Peaks soundtrack. Were these intentional homages or accidents of your new environment? 

The photos on the album were the result of a fucked up camera, or maybe just a bad roll of film. Either way, the double exposures seemed to fit the mood of the album. I spent a lot of time out at the beach and the land’s end area of the city when I first moved there, as well as when I was a kid and on tour. My dad used to live in the area in the 60s and went to city college, so we would go back a lot throughout the 70s and 80s to visit his old friends, some of whom were involved in new age kinda stuff, so maybe that stuck in my psyche. I really didn’t think about the twin peaks thing until years later, I think when I was watching season 3 in 2017. I think I owned and liked the soundtrack when I was making the album, but never would have thought of it as an influence at the time. Listening to it now though, I definitely think it was an unconscious influence, not so much the soundtrack itself, but the incidental music and the overall feel of the show and, more specifically, Fire Walk With Me.

>There’s both a playful and a melancholy edge to this material? What specific mood were you reaching for?

I wasn’t going for anything, just getting my ideas down before I forgot em. That’s how most of my music starts out, just trying to record a riff or idea before I forget it. I think also, with the krautrock influences and the Twin Peaks stuff, there is levity, but with an undercurrent of something inexplicable and sometimes ominous. But, moreover, I think that just reflected what I was going through personally at the time and it naturally came out in the music. Things were great, but also not great at the same time.

>How did it get released on Emperor Jones?

I think that came about because I was doing an album with the Double U for them and someone in the Double U suggested I send Craig Stewart a copy. Drag City had already passed on it at that point and I couldn’t really think of anyone else who might be interested in putting it out. Luckily Craig liked it, especially the last song, which is probably the most challenging listen, so I was really happy to work with him. He was putting out a lot of great stuff at the time and they had distribution through touch and go. Through him and the label I got to know the 100% storms ensemble, who were doing really cool kind of avant garde classical stuff. That helped get me even more into classical music and I started going to the SF symphony and free concerts at the conservatory. I had a friend who worked at Carnegie Hall and I got to see a Wagner performance when we were in NY on the way home from a European Champs tour. In 2003 I actually wrote and recorded a short symphony, replacing the fake instruments when I found players who could play the parts. I Couldn’t find a bassoon player so I rented one for a few months, thinking I could pick it up like I did the saxophone , cello and some other instruments. Lemme tell ya, it’s a lot harder than it looks and it looks pretty hard. Eventually I returned it without a note recorded.

>Is Concentrick strictly a studio creation?

Yeah, I mean I never really thought about it, but it would be so hard to re-learn all the parts and it would require so many players, although Juan Alderete liked my fourth album so much he offered to play bass on any future records. 

>I love the Charm soundtrack that 5RC released (never actually seen the movie!). You do some great composed pieces for that under your own name and some techno under Concentrick? Describe that project coming together and your work on it?

Thanks! I wish I still had all the stuff I wrote for that. I lost almost all of it in a computer crash. I don’t know how much they included on the soundtrack release, but I remember really liking some of the stuff I came up with. It was fun doing the foley and incidental music for that, but I don’t know if I’d do well with deadlines and direction doing it like a big film production. I have done some music for video games though and that was pretty fun and lucrative. The film was a total labor of love by Sadie and Sara and being Sadie’s boyfriend at the time, I just wanted to do whatever I could to help and support her artistic endeavors. We were working with really primitive tools, like all the sound was sync’ed by trial and error, but I think it came out pretty great.

>The song “The Walk” on there by Thrones seems similar to Lucid Dreaming? Was there an influence or from Preston’s project in general?

I love Joe and I recorded the earliest Thrones stuff (even played drums on one song!), but I don’t think I know that song. I’ve mentioned new age and Twin Peaks as a touchstone. And also hear Cluster, Eno,

Popol Vuh Tangerine Dream, and sci-fi soundtracks. 

>Do you recognize any of those influences or are there ones I’m not hearing?

For sure, yeah. I was always into the Forbidden Planet soundtrack. When I was a kid I had a VHS copy of that film I watched so many times that eventually the tape broke. Sadie actually made a Concentrick music video using footage from that film. I got really into soundtracks in the 90’s and that cinematic feel was definitely an influence on music I was making, although I may not have realized it at the time. I sampled a lot of soundtrack music on “Tender Machines’ ‘, like Goblin and whoever it was that did the Maniac soundtrack, I forget the guy’s name. John Carpenter’s music was also a big influence.

>I have a later Concentrick album called Aluminum Lake that’s more guitar based. What places has that project taken you and what’s your philosophy towards it? 

I just got tired of all the synths and samples and was generally moving in a more organic direction from “Music for Tunnels” on. I think I was also just writing more music on guitar at that time.  I’m appreciating the old stuff more now though. Earlier this year I put out two volumes of unreleased (mostly) electronic stuff from around that same time, as well as an album of the compilations and soundtracks I’ve contributed to over the years. https://concentrick.bandcamp.com/album/aluminum-lake

>Music for Tunnels is more stark and sparse and Tender Machines more busy than Lucid Dreaming? Was there a logic to this or accidental? Describe the recording of those and your approach to those albums?

The Music for Tunnels album was recorded live to cassette with no overdubs, except for one song, so there was a built-in limitation to how elaborate the music could be just using the RMS2000, the modified oscillator and an MXR pitch transposer. I had just finished building the RMS2000 and the recordings are basically my first attempt at using it in a musical way. I got a computer in 1998 and started making music with really primitive software, so I was really only able to use samples. https://concentrick.bandcamp.com/album/music-for-tunnels

Eventually I incorporated the computer into the studio and was able to do very basic stereo recording with it, so I started adding synths that I played over the various samples I’d assembled and drum beats I’d cut up and re-organized, some of which I’d played myself on the kit. So, it was kind of a natural technology driven progression as far as how much I could add in terms of real instruments. Aphex Twin and other Richard D James projects were a big influence on the Tender Machines album. I feel like he kind of vacillates between lush soundscapes and total chaos. With that album I kind of went insane with the samples, partly cos I was so excited to be able to manipulate all these sounds in a much more elaborate way than when I first got into that kind thing. Back in 1990 I had this kinda musical alter ego called DJ Kickboy Hyperbass (a reference to the boombox we had at the dischord office), which was like hip hop stuff, using old isaac Hayes soundtracks and stuff that people were just starting to sample, but adding stuff from the MC5, Stooges and other weirder stuff. It was super primitive cos all I had was a reel to reel four track, a shitty mixer and a turntable. so, building a basic beat from a record meant recording like 2 seconds of sound, rewinding the tape, moving the needle back and then recording another two seconds. I honestly don’t know how I did it thinking back now, it was pretty ridiculous. 

https://concentrick.bandcamp.com/album/tender-machines

>There’s been in recent years a lot of synth based artists like Pulse Emitter, Zombi, and Omni Gardens? Have you seen a similarity between their approach and what you did on Lucid Dreaming? Have you been interested in any of this scene? Has anyone told you that you were influential to them?

The only one I’ve heard of out of those is Zombi and they’re awesome. The Champs toured with em in 2005 and we recorded a few songs together. I don’t really keep up on new music cos I’m too busy working with bands. I also have very limited internet where I live, so it’s hard to check out new stuff. However, I did recently become aware of a new genre some people are calling comfy synth, which, from what I’ve heard, sounds a lot like the music I was making 20 years ago. I have a friend here who builds amazing fuzz pedals and he expressed an interest in my electronic music, so I made him a few discs of unreleased stuff. This was like 8 years ago and he was like, yeah, this kinda stuff is really popular again. My takeaway was that people never like the music I’m making when I’m making it. 

Maybe 20 years later..

>Okay you recorded two of my favorite albums, Pottymouth by Bratmobile and Dead as Dreams by Weakling. I need to hear some anecdotes about both.

Oh man, one was 29 years ago and the other was 22 years ago, so it’s hard to remember anything specific. I remember making both albums, just not anything particularly interesting to relate. I do remember that throughout most of the Weakling recording, even during the mastering, John and Josh were like, “it doesn’t sound shitty enough, make it sound shittier”, cos black metal at that time was such a specific thing and very lo-fi. https://youtu.be/mnjH-ZYe59c I also remember when we were doing some synth overdubs for the Weakling record, some combination of Josh, Sarah, John and I were fuckin around with the synth and recorded this beautiful lush piece of music on the spot. It had kind of a blade runner ending feel. We were seriously thinking about using it on a champs record for a while. I still have a copy of it.

>How did the idea of this tape reissue arise?

It was Nathan Berlinguette’s idea. He and I worked on a handful of projects together and collaborated on an album about 13 years ago. I had recently remastered Lucid Dreaming and put it up on Bandcamp along with the rest of em.

>Future plans and current projects?

Not really. I have some unfinished songs I’d like to finish, one with Jon Theodore, who played on the “Aluminum Lake”.

https://daftalliance.com/home

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