Northern Transmissions caught up with frontman Hans Zimmerman from ‘The Young’. The Austin, TX band’s new album Chrome Cactus comes out on August 25 via Matador Records.
Northern Transmissions: The title “Chrome Cactus,” sets a tone of surrealism for the album. How did you come about this oxy-moron for a title, and how does it tie into the album as a whole?
Hans Zimmerman: Hans Zimmerman: Ideas sometimes just snap into place, and that’s where Chrome Cactus (as a title) came from. The title was at the front of my mind while riffs were tossed around or worked into full songs, I would just imagine this overpowering polished chrome cactus and replay a scenario in my mind – approaching the monument slowly, seeking something and being confronted with a distorted reflection of my self like a barbed fun house mirror.
NT: I noticed different colors and metals appearing throughout the song titles and lyrics. How did these visuals aid you in the song-writing process?
HZ: They’re visual sure but they’re also tactile materials and that’s where we come from – shaping things and contorting them until they’re songs. We work by hand and sometimes just pure strength or commitment, no bodies talking about key or time signature, just what it should or shouldn’t feel like. It’s visceral.
NT: This album has a darker feel than your past work. How did this come about?
HZ: It was totally natural really; to overgeneralize: EVERYTHING IS FUCKED. On a whole though (compared to Dub Egg) this album more overtly explores paranoid themes, relationships with power (abuse of power or being disenfranchised by design or addiction), destruction, anguish and death. It is not without joy though, but those moments are sometimes smudged or obscured. Our previous LP has an undercurrent of the aforementioned thematic points, but they were purposefully subverted by ‘carefree’ riffing, Chrome Cactus is a ruptured boil.
NT: You recorded “Chrome Cactus” at the new Louder studios located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. Did the change of scenery affect the mood and sound of your album?
HZ: Louder is situated a few miles outside of town on a nice plot of land, band accommodations are on the property as well so it was really easy to soak up the vibe and get work done, it’s a beautiful place. Ultimately however, Tim Green did more to affect the mood and sound of this album than the location ever could, He’s such a Guru. He could take a handful of abstract music references or loose adjectives describing a desired guitar sound and just go find it; dial it in with total patience and care.
NT: A number of songs on the album have an air of the uncertainties and journeys of life about them. What inspired this?
HZ: These things bubble to the surface and end up informing riffs and lyrics organically. I spend as much time as anyone else feeling fucked up or confused – playing music is a way to seek answers or find comfort through creativity and friendship.
NT: How did you conceptualize your album cover?
HZ: The front cover was conceptualized by Brooklyn artist Aimee Lusty, she began with an illustration of a cactus that was later photographed amidst a collection of items from her studio. She was really fantastic to work with and I love her work. The cover is a strange evocative compliment to the music; the joy and anguish of mortal life – creeping death in the margins, always.
NT: What five alms are inspiring you these days?
HZ: I’ve been on a huge Doug Sahm/Quintet trip lately & their 1968 album – ‘Sir Douglas Quintet + 2 = Honkey Blues’ has been ruling me recently. It’s more blues-oriented than stuff I typically jam but the production is amazing and the band is so tight here, George Rains is such an amazing drummer, I love this record. I’ve also been leaning heavily on The Gosdin Brothers – Sounds of Goodbye LP that they made for Capitol after working with Gene Clark, great west coast country vibes with fantastic harmonies & backed up by Nashville West. Hits from this century: ‘Floor, Oblation’ “War on Drugs, Lost in the Dream’ & ‘ Centro matic, Take Pride In Your Long Odds’.