Here’s our chat with Ben Chasny Aka ‘Six Organs Of Admittance’. We touched on a number of interesting things, including working with his old bandmates from ‘Comets On’ Fire on the new record. The new album ‘Ascent’ drops August 21 on Drag City Records.
NT: Your new record “Ascent” seems to comes across with more songs that are based on stories, then previous releases. Was this your intention when you were writing the record?
BC: Yes. I realized that on a lot of my previous records I was working with ideas rather than any sort of narrative. I’ve never done a record that was based on any story before so I thought it might be a good change of pace. One night I wrote up a basic outline of the narrative for the record and then I wrote songs loosely based on that story. I should emphasis the word “loosely” because otherwise one gets dangerously close to rock opera territory. So it’s nothing like that.
NT: The record has also been described as a true sonic departure as well, the track “Waswasa” is a prime example.
BC: I wrote that song when I was on tour in Europe. I was staying at a friends house and he had his guitar tuned in a strange type of open C and that was the first thing that came out. I heard it in my head as a rock song and that is a part of how the whole dynamics for the record came about. Solar Ascent and They Called You Near are in the same tuning. I think the new tuning added a bit of a different favor to the record.
NT: You recorded the album with your old bandmates from Comets On Fire. How did it feel to get back in the studio with those guys, was it like picking up where you left off. Was it a different vibe, considering it was a SOOA album?
BC: It felt great to see each other again, share some laughs, BBQ and have a good time. In a way it was exactly the same as it had always been. Everyone sort of falls into their character types when around each other. On the other hand it was a bit different because there wasn’t that struggle for ideas and the process of weeding out what might be a bad riff or what have you, even for myself. I felt a little more confident. I think we all did. Everyone was in a really positive mood. I think we were all just really happy to be playing music together.
NT: Your other band Rangda is coming out with a new record soon, and before that you worked with Gala Drop. Do you find it tough juggling so many projects?
BC: Not really. It would probably be a little different if I was in a popular band where I would be tied up for months at a time to tour or something. What I do is a lot more natural. It’s more like, “oh, you’re in town for a few weeks? Let’s record a bit.”
NT: Can you tell me about the decision to revisit “One Thousand Birds”?
BC: That was one of the few songs that we used to play live ten years ago so we thought we’d give it a shot. It seems to work well in a band format. It was also originally inspired by Attar’s Conference of the Birds with has a heavy theme of gnosis so it translated well to the storyline, which is a typical sci-fi gnostic sort of tale.
NT: You mentioned the birthday of Gaston Bachelard on your website, what kind of influence has he had on you?
BC: It should be noted that Bachelard was a philosopher of science and he originally started writing about the imagination as a way to examine what he considered a block to the scientific process. I think a lot of people forget that and sort of New Age-ize him. But after that, when you consider his examination of the material imagination in his books on the four elements, you start to see how his vision is very applicable to everyday life. And then he becomes very inspiring. He’s a very positive writer in terms of tone and mood. I’ve always felt that if everyone read a little Bachelard every morning with their coffee or tea their day would probably have a better day. As far as musically, I think his phenomenology of reverie is most applicable to the creative process, at least for me.
NT: Which five albums from your collection would you consider to be the most influential? BC: Rudolph Grey – Mask Of Light Leo Kottke – My Feet Are Smiling Nikki Sudden and Dave Kusworth (The Jacobites) – Lost In A Sea Of Scarves Sun Ra – Cosmic Tones For Mental Therapy Shizuka
Photo by Giorgia Mannavola