Shitting on New Age with this rising stoner psych powerhouse.
Shooting Guns jumping. Photo by Andrew Spearin.
Here in Canada, we have a music award called the Polaris Prize. Basically it's two hundred critics, DJs, and bloggers arguing about the Canadian album of the year, with the champ taking home a cool 30 Gs. I’ve been lucky enough to be a juror for a few years now, and while I haven’t agreed with many of the past winners, there are always a few interesting acts to get nominated.
One of this year’s biggest surprises were Saskatchewan stoner/psych rockers Shooting Guns, off their instrumental epic Born To Deal In Magic: 1952 - 1976. With just a few days left before Polaris' short list is announced, I called up guitarist Chris Laramee to chat about the dark lord, his solo project Wasted Cathedral, and the upcoming split 7” with Edmonton’s equally blazed Krang.
NOISEY: How does it feel to have made the first Polaris-nominated record with a Satanic ritual on the cover?
Chris Laramee: It feels good! But kind of strange. We definitely didn’t expect it, and found out when we were on the road to Vancouver to play a show. I had no idea we were even nominated, but I’m always the last guy in the band to know because I’m kind of a space-case. It’s cool to be on the same list as Leonard Cohen and Yamantaka // Sonic Titan. They’re amazing.
Does anyone in the band have first-hand experience with Satan or the occult?
There are a few members of the band who have investigated it, but not me. I haven’t delved too deep. I like the imagery but I’m more of a fan of bands like the Butthole Surfers who tried to add some absurdity. Those classic stoner/doom images have all been used, so it’s better to come up with your own angle on it.
You’ve played in a pretty absurd amount of bands - how many sounded like Black Sabbath?
[laughs] Each one has had its own thing going on, but I’ve definitely slutted it up around town. I’m playing in three bands right now, and I just love it. I usually play with someone every night of the week.
Let’s talk about Wasted Cathedral. How long has that project been going, and what inspired you to drift into cosmic synth territory?
That’s basically just me at home with a sampler and some effects. I’ve had a little break from work lately, so I’ve been doing that a lot. It’s all analog stuff straight to tape with one or two tracks. I clean it up on the computer a bit, put it onto a master tape and then it’s good to go.
Have you caught the synth bug and started collecting lots of gear?
Actually, all I’ve got is a cheap Micro Korg and an old Yamaha I found. I just like degrading it like William Basinski. I found out about him a couple of years ago and realized I was trying to do the same thing. I just like really calm, circular sounds. I don’t want to call it New Age though, because I hate that. There seems to be a lot of it going around right now, whether you want to call it “kosmische” or whatever. Some of it is great, but I’m personally trying to create pure background music. If you turn it up loud it’ll blow your head off, but if you keep it real low, it’s just texture.
Why do you hate New Age?
It’s too easy. There’s too much stuff coming up that’s basically aping Cluster or trying to sound like Windham Hill Records. There are people who do it really well, and I’m a huge fan of Emeralds and Mark McGuire, even though a lot of people might consider it played out. I thought Does It Look Like I’m Here? was one of the best albums released in the last few years in terms of adding something new. Seeing them live was just stunning too. That really got me going on recording again, because they were just a bomb.
SHOOTING GUNS | Public Taser, from Tyler Baptist on Vimeo.
You guys and Krang seem like kindred spirits. How did you hook up to do the split?
We played with them in Edmonton a few times, and just became good friends. Psychic Handshake put out so much good stuff too, so it was kind of a no-brainer. The first time we played together there was the instant connection, even just for the fact that we were both heavy bands with a keyboard player. The next day everyone was hungover, let’s just put it that way.
Can one band out-drink or out-smoke the other?
We’ll out-smoke ‘em, and they’ll out-drink us [laughs]. It’s always a night of oblivion with those guys.