Saturday, January 15, 2022

Count Robot's Top Three Albums of 2021

Count Robot's Top Three Albums of 2021 Here's Count Robot's three favorite musical releases of 2021. The song, “That's What Love Is” from Wanda Jackson's Encore gets my vote as tear jerker of the year. Best sad song of the year. Thank you Wanda, I sincerely hope you enjoy your retirement. 

3. Expanse meets The JMDE Quartet: Scope Not the mouthwash, the psychedelic music wash of experimentalism that floods your ears. I've only listened to this album in it's entirety a few times but each time its reminded me of all the fun experimental music performances I've seen, encapsulated in one CD. It flows. It is it's own thing. It's one song that stretches out for 1:10:46. Yes, it's a gigantic cosmical jam. It's strange and strangely fun. Trumpets, drums, a basket of rocks, Christmas ornaments, a sax, and a heck of a lot of other sounds sources do their thing all over the place. The performers take care to listen to each other rather than just step all over each. They build together, they rise, fall, float, and create as a functioning ensemble. Bells chimes with echos of Miles Davis getting strange with a Sketches of Spain melting soundscape. Melodies leap about with pulsing percussion assaults. A gem of a jamscape! 

2. Cat Temper: Furbidden Planet A concept Cat Temper album! Cats in space. What is there not to like? There's some cool cat artwork here too! Meowtastic ridiculous pun filled synth pop in lo-fi/hi-fi outer space. How can you not adore an album with the opening song title, “Catstronauts Are Go”? This story album about space bound kitties and their fur raising discovery is an aural treat. Cat Temper slings out lots of albums, this is more than just another album, its a sonic treat. There's some great neo-80's synth sounds floating in every track. In all seriousness, I think fans of late 80's Tangerine Dream will dig this album deeper than a litter box, which by the way, this album should never belong in a litter box. It's a great album! Easily one of the best in the Cat Temper catalog. 

1. Black Sky Giant: Planet Terror Whenever I listen to this album, it feels as though it was made just for me, just like the movie Grindhouse does. Also of note, one of the segments of Grindhouse is of course called Planet Terror. I'll have to ask Black Sky Giant someday if that's where the title came from. Well, none of that describes why I like this album so much, except in an inept way. This album has some of the most exciting sampling I've heard in a long time. It reminds me of Ministry's classic The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste with the creative wall of dialogue sampling. Black Sky Giant increases that here, using stock music samples as building blocks within some of their instrumental songs. The production is really smooth, yet powerful. The title track kicks off the album showcasing you the black light infused instrumental fuzz style that you will be treated to throughout this well sequenced series of tunes. One of many things that endears me to this album, is that it's over so fast, I can never get bored of it. There are just seven songs on this mighty slab of musical muscle. There's a great interplay between then electric guitar and the bass. Ulameth (endbringer) is the centerpiece of the album for me. The deep tones of the guitar and bass really rumble along with spaced out synth pads and ah those wonderful samples! The Phantom Gun closes out the album in a grand style and introduces a raucous wild western motif of sounds and samples. Black Sky Giant, you did a fantastic job!

Thursday, December 30, 2021

An interview with musician Tim Mungenast

 I am not only a collaborator with psychedelic musician Tim Mungenast, I am also a fan. Tim was kind enough to answer some questions for me via email. Here we go.

Q: How did you first become interested in music? What were your early inspirations?

A: My interest in music was innate, something I was seemingly born with.
My younger brothers and I loved to mess around with the out-of-tune upright piano in the basement, and the unplayable junky electric guitar that my big brother had rightfully given up on, and one of those plastic electric "chord organ" things (like a Harmonium but with a wee electric compressor inside).

The very early (preschool and early grade school) inspirations were movie and TV themes and their incidental music, and a little later came the psychedelic era, which was getting into full bloom around the time I was in first grade. It was bold and exciting!

My older brothers brought home albums by new acts like Jimi Hendrix (my number one!), Cream, and the Five Americans; I think my older sisters bought most of the Beatles and Monkees LPs and 45s; and my dad blew my mind when he bought that Ravi Shankar/Yehudi Menuhin album "West Meets East"... my God, to me, that may have been just as tectonic a shift as "Are You Experienced?" -- both albums left a mark that is still there well over 50 years later.

The same can be said for Dad's two other great purchases: a 3-LP set by flamenco hero Manitas de Plata, and the Beatles gem Sgt Pepper's! (He bought that Beatles classic partly because he loved the album art, but also the man knew good music even if it wasn't his usual classical.)

Radio oughta get credit, too, in two ways: 1) we had some VERY hip and eclectic stations in Syracuse, and thank God the signal was strong enough to reach us in the nearby cow towns, for those of us growing up surrounded by corn and needing good music so desperately; and 2) on family road trips, when an AM channel grew weak, Dad didn't change it... I think he really liked the crazy "between channel" sounds, which in a very real way are The Voice of Space. Everyone else hated it, but I dug it, and that, too, left a mark that endures to this day.

Non-musical stuff got thrown into my musical blender, too:
my favorite TV shows (from Hogan's Heroes to Jacques Cousteau);
National Geographic;
making model cars;
modifying them;
blowing a few of them up on the back porch (and other daffy boyhood sh*t);
reading books about the space program;
just running around outside like kids used to do.

Q: What made you start playing the guitar?

A: As a kid, I always wanted to sing, make up little songs, and fool around with instruments, but the interest in guitar kicked in around first grade, when I started becoming aware of the great music of that era (the so-called "hippie days"). That music was guitar-driven and very exciting, a very different world from the movie themes and commercial jingles that had floated my boat before then.

In the years that followed, I'd hear all sorts of music that made me obsessed with guitar. By the mid-seventies, I was reading Guitar Player magazine, talking to friends who played guitar, drawing pictures of people playing guitar, and envying people who played guitar. (chuckle)

Still, I didn't make any serious attempt to actually learn​ guitar until May 1980. Before then, I had the desire, for sure, but I simply lacked the focus and the discipline.
Summer 1980 was different: by then, I was ready.

I'd seen this hot local player named Bob Piorun play in a great cover band and also jazz shows. I finally walked up to him after one of his jazz gigs and asked if he was taking students. To my relief, he was!

I was off and running. He was a great teacher and I was finally ready to learn. I almost practiced too much, to the point where I was really wearing out my tendons, because I felt I had to make up for lost time.
Driven, I was.

Q: Tell us the story of your first band.

A: I tried starting a band way back around 1975, a whole 5 years before I learned how to play -- it was really just going to be fun, artsy incompetence, with one friend playing signal generator (his dad repaired electronics and had several such tone generators); me "playing" my older brother's unplayable guitar by just bashing it and making it feed back (I also had a kiddie drum set from a few Christmases earlier); and we were gonna ask the only actual musician we knew to be our sole talent, our "ringer," but he was a classical cello player on a career path, and I was too embarrassed to ask him.  I was going to say that I long to start a project to recapture that "why not?" devil-may-care spirit, but I realized Astro Al really checks those boxes for me.

Fast forward a decade or so, to 1986, in Greater Boston, and I finally got the nerve to start making some phone calls, trying to start a band. My friend Jae Ha Chong had a friend, Bill Casey, who was a very talented guitar player and singer who could write catchy pop tunes. Bill and I were the cofounders. He was funny in that he was a giant King Crimson fan but his own songs were very very poppy, albeit superbly crafted. He brought in his friend Sean Farrell to play bass (very well, I might add), and I forgot how we found Jamie Cail on drums, but he was superb. We settled on a name (The Hub Cats) and played a couple of well-paying cover gigs -- about half Beatles and Stones, and half originals, and that was about it for our 3 years together besides a picnic gig where we were paid in good food. We broke up over artistic differences, or more accurately I was fired from my own band and they went on without me under the name Tenebrism. I wasn't butthurt about it, though, because I knew it was for the best, and they were good people. Sadly, I can't find a single one of them online. I have the phone for Jamie but it just seems so weird, the idea of calling him after 32 years. Still, I might just do it.

Q: When you migrated from New York to Boston what were your first musical experiences?

A: Being exposed to the great radio hits of the early eighties, and great buskers like kora master David Gilden and blues hero Kenny Holladay, as well as underground sounds from records (Gang of Four, Crawling Chaos, Mission of Burma, Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, etc) and concerts  (Minutemen, the U Men, O Positive, Winter Hours, Cavedogs, Zulus, Salem 66, November Group, and Pleasure Pointe, featuring the friendly and amazing Reeves Gabrels). These are just my early experiences. Much more came later.

I also started to do reconnaissance on my local music stores, like the now-defunct Daddy's Junky Music and Cambridge Music, meeting my fellow players, seeing and being seen, hearing and being heard.

That plus practicing, practicing, practicing., and the occasional jam.

Q: You were in Tim Mungenast and his Preexisting Conditions, then Timworld. What are some of your favorite memories of those bands? When you changed the name to Timworld how do you feel it changed the dynamic of the band?

A: I should back up a couple of years before that to illustrate the picture more clearly.

In 1989 I'd co-founded this great jam band called Skysaw (not Yuri Zbitnoff's band of the same name), with multi-instro hero Derek Blackwell, and when we added then-child-prodigy axeman Mac Randall plus multi-instro badasses Jonno Deily on drums and John DeGregorio on bass, we were a mighty quintet. We only played 2 shows (Middle East and TT's -- I have recordings!) but I have many happy memories of hours-long jams in Jonno's basement... and these long jams were actually GOOD and INTERESTING! We'd swap instruments to keep ourselves fresh, make up songs on the fly... one time, Derek made this synth loop, and I played a crazy thing over it, to which he replied drolly, "congratulations, Tim, it's in 13..."  I wrote lyrics then and there, about flying to the moon in a sunbathing chair with big helium balloons tied to it, and we kind of group-composed the rest as we went along .  That's the kind of band we were. We coulda been great, I think. One of those jams made it as a hidden track at the end of 1999's Birth of Monsters album.

That band imploded in 1992 over booking buggery that I shouldn't get into, but later that same year, when I started playing out under my own name, all these same very talented people were kind enough to volunteer as my backing band, which was very lucky for me. As various people quit and were replaced over the years, I got multi-instro hero Michael Bloom (Cul de Sac) as my bassist, and IIRC he was the one who dubbed us Tim Mungenast and His PreExisting Conditions.

We had a couple bars whose booking people believed in us (thank you, Hank Susskind and Mickey Bliss and Anders!), but we really loved playing the Bookcellar Cafe, an extremely comfortable, hospitable bookstore/cafe that always treated us right, even though in retrospect it was kind of a fire trap and was closed down for that reason. I understand why, but we were sad to see it go! We had all those terrific memories of playing there! Superb coffee, too.

TMAHPC had a lot of very talented people join and quit, but my favorite period was 2002 to 2014, twelve years as a psychedelic power trio with Michael Bloom and Jon Proudman (also in Cul de Sac, as well as Men and Volts). I had to share these two geniuses with Cul de Sac, so whenever CdS had a tour, I had to take a break or see what shows I could get solo, but the important thing was we were a TRIO now, no defections, no substitutions.

Over time we started group improv -- telepathic automatic composition -- and we got better and better at it. We recorded a lot in the practice space (Bloom's basement) and no kidding, an awful lot of that stuff was amazing -- even Michael and Jon liked it, and those cats were never shy about telling me when they hated something, haha!

I also fondly remember the honor of recording No Such Animal with the sax god Ken Field. Everything made it to the album the same way it went down in Bloom's basement, no edits except a little extra reverb on my guitar, and the removal of one song we did while Ken was using the bathroom. (That song, Barrage a Trois, was used later, on the Steam-Powered Mars Lander album.)

The name change to Timworld happened in 2012 during the production of the Dhoom album. Michael and Jon finally levelled with me that they'd quietly despised the TMAHPC name for years and were afraid to tell me. I jokingly shot back "Since when have EITHER of you EVER been afraid to tell me you didn't like something?" but I knew they had a point. They were giving me their honest opinion, and I knew they were right -- the title was clunky as f*ck, plus we'd been using Timworld as shorthand for the band (and band business) for years anyway, so I was OK with the change, especially since I wanted to keep my amazing rhythm heroes happy. 

John DeGregorio had been doing cheap-but-skillful recordings of our shows for years, and Timworld's "Dhoom" was 6 hours of those recordings distilled down to one CD's worth of material. A lot of hard choices, yep, but the finished product did a great job showing off our ensemble improv chops. I love that album!

Two facts: 1) Proudman and Bloom were one of the best rhythm sections in the United States, and I was lucky to have them on my team as creative partners, and

2, When it came to group improv, we may have been the best in Boston. Unfortunately, nobody in Boston really cared about that, so 12 years of our trio playing to 5 people and making $20 a night took its toll on band morale, until we finally broke up.

But we had a good long run, with some moments of true transcendence, moments where I felt a portal opening. Mystic transport had been my goal all along, and some audience members (you and Deb among them, bless you!) shared with me that they had experienced something beautiful and strange during our shows.

Q: Lately you've been focused on experimental music. What is your approach to that style of music?

A: I was bitten by the experimental bug long before I got serious about playing an instrument. Years later, in 1984, when I got my Fostex 4-track cassette recorder, I was off and running, ready to commit some craziness to tape! Nowadays it's my trusty Zoom H2 and my smartphone.

I have this huge pile of ideas in my head, all being churned and sifted, some mingled with others and others being aloof and determined to stand alone.

I have this constant urge to make these ideas real enough to share with other people, so they can (I hope) enjoy the same sensations that I do when I hear them in my head.

Q: What are some of your favorite sounds that you've created?

A: I'll try to keep this part manageably short, since sounds are my great love and I tend to get carried away.

I love my sound on "The Shaman Welcomes The Sky Gods," haha!

Like the thwapping of a giant spring! B-D-D-D-D-D-D-D-D!

Also, I dig my un-sane "cry for help" tone on "Barrage a Trois," from my release "Steam-Powered Mars Lander." (Because it is on a label other than mine, you won't find it on my bandcamp page, only  That sonic blasphemy was a one-off custom pedal that required one tech to begin and two more to finish! It's been one of my secret weapons for over 15 years.

I also love my Fuzz Face and its diligent Roy Goode clone. Those two have been on a lot of my best stuff going back to the mid 1980s.

Q: Your lyrical content is usually surreally Roald Dahl-esque. What do you attribute this to?

A: Genetics (hahaha!)   The barrier between my waking and dreaming selves, between my conscious and my unconscious minds, has always been very porous, easily flapping back and forth like a doggie door.  That famous Dali quote -- "I do not do​ drugs! I am​ drugs! Take me​, I am hallucinogenic!" -- really sort of describes me as well. Clearly this is a detriment in many life situations, but for creative situations it is a big help.

Q: How would you describe your music and your guitar playing style?

A: My music, whether it's my actual songs or my more out-there sonic statements, all boils down to an attempt to share my inner world with others. I have been lucky enough to get several glimpses of "the Beyond," and I want to share it, whether through my psych tunes, or my spacey pop tunes, or the wonderfully unusual musical poetry that I make with Astro Al.

Q: Where do you see yourself going on your musical journey?

A: I hope to continually improve my ear, and my hand-soul coordination, to more accurately get my thoughts through my hands into the listener's ears and mind and soul.

I have a lot of avant garde music left in me, but I hope to play some rock and roll again, too. It's been nearly 10 years, and I miss it. I also want to keep learning more about Indian and Asian musics, jazz, flamenco, various Native musics, everything!

Summoning an ET presence with my guitar would really be something!

Q: What other artistic aspirations do you have besides music?

A: Aside from my obsession with photography, I have been getting back into drawing and writing, both of which I've been told I have some talent for, except they are both much harder for me than music. Perhaps that's why I ought to continue exploring them, eh? Work those neurons! haha! Maybe then they won't get all rusty with age!

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

An Interview with musician Brian Fowler

An Interview with musician Brian Fowler

It was my great pleasure to meet Brian Fowler back in 2004 at the Space Rock Con in Alabama. Brian is very versatile musician as you will see. 

1. You play a lot of different instruments (mandolin, guitar, bass, etc.). When did you first start playing music and what instrument did you start with?

          I had a guitar when I was 9 a super thick body that had  strings a mile off the fretboard.The first song I learned was “ Don’t Fear the Reaper” taught by a neighbor. About 2 years later my Dad and myself went into a music shop on my birthday and he gave me 100 dollars to buy a instrument.I found a mandolin for 69 dollars called a Bentley mandolin. All my Uncles played Bluegrass Music and we frequently went to Hear music all the time.   I bought a bass years later and started using it to make demos…I have been dabbling with Synths lately and the Theremin.

2. Tell us about your first band.

The Bluegrass Tradition was my first band as a freshman in high school  with My buddies Allen Roger’s and Todd Osborne. We would constantly play everywhere.We would walk in bars and the patrons would give us money and we would play for hours and even drink beer or whiskey once the patrons were jamming to it..We would hitch-hike everywhere and play..

3. You bounce around with genres a lot. You play everything from country to space rock. What drives you to play all these different types of music? When did you first realize you could play many different styles of music? 

My Grandpa played fiddle in a string band and Jazz on a Saxophone also.I always have been drawn to   all styles of music..I  always have been a fan of all types of music, I always take the challenge on all styles of music…I enjoy diversity.

4. Who are some of your songwriting role models?

On the Spacerock My biggest songwriting  influences are definitely Nik Turner from Hawkwind and Chris Karrer of Amon Duul. As far as Bluegrass Bill Monroe and John Duffey from The Seldom Scene….

5. Who are some performers that inspire you?

As far as a performers on stage I would go with Arthur Brown, I love watching him perform.. Blue Oyster Cults new album inspired me to write. Bill Monroe gave me enough inspiration for life. My bands Bibb City Ramblers and The Jupiter 4 inspire me to continue making music….

6. What are some of your favorite musical experiences?

Performing Live at Suwannee Springfest with my Band The Bibb City Ramblers…Playing Alexander City Jazz Fest.I have been lucky to play 50 plus shows or more every    year for last 30 years.I have been in a few great house band situations.I have always been blessed with lots of shows to this day…..I guess   getting to play some shows with Colonel Bruce Hampton, Bob Harvey, Harvey Bainbridge etc….

7. What musical projects are you currently working on?

The Jupiter 4 along with John Pack, Sloan Leaven’s and Jim Dunn from Spaceseed. I am on five  of the six Spaceseed albums with John Pack. We have been friends for years and wanted to do something new.The Jupiter 4 release is  out now on Spotify and a new album J42 is in the works….. The Bibb City Ramblers formed in 2007 is still active and playing and just recorded “Simulation” a Bluegrass Concept album available in band camp,Spotify etc…..Bibb City are discussing the next record and currently are playing live a lot…..

8. You created a word called, Egatoid. Can you explain what Egatoid means and it's origin?

My friend CHUCK WADDELL created the word.It’s definition is “The all purpose word of Excitement “. Chuck turned me on to Hawkwind and Nektar. He is still living and lives in the woods of Kentucky in an area called The  Wonder Woods waiting on the Apocalypse.  

Thanks for thinking about me for interview….

My YouTube and  websites

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Santa Ana Noise Fest XIII

 Here's all the sets of Santa Ana Noise Fest XIII.

Our new project Amplissima (Featuring Eric Dahlman, Tim Mungenast, and us from Astro Al) debuted during this fest. Dig the weirdness.

set 1 (with Amplissima)

set 2 (with Phog Masheen!)

set 3

set 4

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Mark Soden JR is a musician & noise performer currently in CA. Mark is involved in many music festivals in front of and behind the scenes. Mark was kind enough to answer a few questions for me as he gets ready for the 2021 edition of the Santa Ana Noise fest.

What drew you to creating music and sounds?

I was raised in a house where tone deafness was respected and celebrated. "Sing along with Mitch" by Mitch Miller was treated like high art.

In high school I participated in marching band. Some would consider that only slightly different than a noise concert.

At San Francisco State I was in the electronic music lab, exploring the potential of the Buchla modular synth.

I had a job as a sound man at the "Cuckoo's Nest" in Costa Mesa, California. I got to watch the development of "Slam Dancing" first hand.

I spent a good amount of time in bands, some made money. Most didn't.

Upon retirement, I returned to Orange Coast College and took music classes. I play in various ensembles there.

Do you consider yourself a musician or noise artist or both? What do you feel the difference is, if there even is one?

I do both noise and music. I think they inform each other. Lately I have been doing music for a science fiction podcast "Simultaneous Times." It is a place where I can use both noise and music skills. I think there are lots of opportunities for musician and noise performers in the world of creating audio tracks to support video.

Phog Masheen is a very interesting musical project that you're involved with. What do you want people to know about Phog Masheen? What are some of the most exciting aspects of Phog Masheen for you?

Phog masheeen has been some interesting places, we played for four years at the Orange County Fair.

The first gig for phog masheeen was the Electro Music Festival in 2007. That was in philly. Our gear got tossed by the TSA and I saw my opened rack sliding down the conveyor belt at the airport. With all manner of wires spilling out. It was at the beginnings of air travel as we know it now.

We have been incorporating "narritives" into our presentations. Our recurring theme is America's obsession with "stuff." We started by doing a piece on storage units and now we are considering the "romance language of boxes and machines" the barcode. It is the way that we live that provides inspiration for the "narritives."

We also collaborate with other artists for "theme" oriented events. Such as "Dark Waters" our recent video with Wiki-Gong and Skunk Puppet. The theme there was nautical superstitions.

We also promote other shows, such as Wonder Valley Experimental which is in its 14th year. This year we are returning to "meatspace" April 2, 2022 at the Palms Restaurant in 29 Palms.

On a side note, if we ever colonize Mars, if there is a bar there, it will look like the Palms.

How did you get involved in the Santa Ana Noise Fest? 

When I went to the second Santa Ana Noise Fest Stephen Anderson was on a ladder aiming lights. He was the only person there working on the production. Every one else was a performer. I asked him if he needed some help. He said yes. It has been a wild ride since then.

What are some of your favorite memories of the Santa Ana Noise Fest?

The evolution of the SANF has been interesting. The first year, everyone that wanted to perform set up at the same time and played their ass off till they could play no more. It was a room full of people with all manner of gear playing at the same time. One year we had a "jam" at the end of the event. That boiled down to myself, Stephen Anderson and the members of Brutal Poodle. And THEN... there was the performance by Endometrium Cuntplow which was recorded in which he got naked and consumed his own urine.

How do you go about choosing who can be in the fest?

It has been mentioned to me that SANF only exists on Facebook. Yes we do have a page there and we do put out a call for performers there. We also use Twitter. We put out a call for performers on out facebook page and when we get enough of what we are looking for we close the call. In the virtual world, we can accept all forms of performance. In "meatspace" we have a different reality. If you have a 10 piece band they will not fit into an 8'x10' space on the stage. We look for things that sound noisy and will not take an hour to set up and have a fighting chance of being successful. I have no problem with a performer working out their anger management issues on stage. I do have a problem with a drummer that needs his kit fully mic'ed. The physical world is kind of restrictive. The virtual world is whatever will fit on a screen.

Any thoughts you want to share about the Santa Ana Noise Fest?

The true hero of this story is Stephen Anderson. He had the vision to start Santa Ana Noise Fest and has stayed with it. I am a happy "Johnny come lately" that happened onto a good thing.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

An Interview with Ashkelon Sain

Ashkelon Sain, Seattle, 2012. (photo by Photo Slavery)

Ashkelon Sain is an absurdly talented musician that deserves to be known by anyone who likes; ambient, psychedelic, soulful, shoegaze, and experimental music. One of my missions in life is to champion the music that I enjoy. I treasure Ashkelon's music. He makes so many different types of music that there's an album for every mood, or activity.

It's been my great fortune to have seen Ashkelon play twice, both times with his darkwave, dreampop, prog, goth, psychedelic, awesome band, Trance to the Sun. I'm still hoping to see Ashk play some more and maybe with a different band. I attempted to cover a number of Ashk's projects, but there was no way I was going to try to cover them all.

So, here is an interview conducted with Ashkelon Sain via email. Dig it.

What was your first music project/band? What did that teach you?

The first??? Oh Dear! Just a little cover band where we attempted to play songs by The Clash & The B52’s. I think the most important thing to recognize here is that I was just a 14 year old kid who asked his mom if it would be okay if he started a band and held rehearsals in the garage, and my mom was kind enough to say yes.  

This Ascension, Santa Barbara, 1991. LtoR: Kevin Serra, Dru Allen, Tim Tuttle, Ashkelon Sain, Matt Ballesteros. (photo by Tom Tuttle)

For a while you were with the band This Ascension (an amazing 90's Santa Barbara darkwave/dreampop band) what are some of your standout moments with this band?

Indeed. Awesome band. Not much of my time with them is really captured anywhere though. I joined on as bassist around the time their second album was being finalized. I was present for the mixing of that album (Light and Shade) and I got to lay down some celestial guitar leads for the song “Chameleon Room” at that time. I went on to play a year’s worth of shows with This Ascension, as their bassist, & along the way I co-wrote a small cluster of songs which appeared eventually on their third album (Walk Softly, A Dream Lies Here). I left to concentrate on my other band Blade Fetish though, in like 1992, for better or for worse, so, it was ultimately Cynthia Coulter who performed those basslines of mine when the third album finally got recorded. I think she did an excellent job of it.

Trance To The Sun, Santa Barbara, 1996. LtoR: Ashkelon Sain, Zoe Wakefield, Robert Alonzo, Israel Medina. (photo by Lucian S. Donato)

Trance to the Sun was your main musical project for a number of years. TTTS toured the US multiple times as well as doing a number of shorter tours. How did you manage to pull that off without the backing of a major record label?

Monetarily speaking? Well, we kept our expenses down as best we could. Thinking back, it seems to me that the concert promoters who brought us in were really enthusiastic about having us, and super gracious about paying us well. So what comes to mind first is all these individuals in different cities who made it possible for bands like ours to come through... I salute you all! And then there was my 1991 Volvo station wagon named Miranda. Champagne color, very sturdy. We didn’t have a live drummer very often, and we relied on drum machine for most shows, therefore we could fit all our gear in that one car, which saved on gas. It was always quite an epic adventure. 

Trance To The Sun, Philadelphia, 2000. LtoR: Joaquin Gray, Ingrid Luna Blue, Ashkelon Sain. (photo by Clovis IV)

Ambient Submarine Fleet, Santa Barbara, 2001. (photo by Shawn Brenneman)

You did a string of experimental guitar albums that were mostly improvised and recorded live in front of an audience. What memories do you have of those shows? How do you feel those recordings got you prepared for what was next?

The coffee shop I used to frequent back around 2001 was looking for some chill live music on the weekends. They asked me about that possibility, and I said ok. My setup was really simple for that, all direct, so capturing a recording was super easy. What surprised me was when I discovered afterward that I had so much fun listening to the playback! I gave titles to all the different pieces that I’d made up on the spot, and then the obvious next step was to print up some easy CDrs. In a span of about a year I ended up recording eight CDrs worth of “Ashkelon Sain’s Ambient Submarine Fleet”, as it were. There was even a hand-made box set which I had for sale on my website for a time, but I sold out of all those in like 2003. 

Ashkelon Sain’s Ambient Submarine Fleet, Santa Barbara, 2001 (photo by Shawn Brenneman)

I’m flattered that you asked about it, since that music has been submerged beneath the sea for almost 20 years. Since you asked though, I’m going to set a little time aside to dust off & polish up one of those original concert recordings. Look for that to appear soon at

What else did you ask? How did it prepare me? Oh heavens! I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I approached the years immediately to follow with any profound preparedness, so if the experience was meant to prepare me for anything, it most definitely backfired! Hahhahahaa! It wasn’t about that though. It was just a moment in time where I basically pulled back the curtain and was like, “Ok everyone, here’s what Ashkelon Sain does with his guitar when he thinks no one is listening.”

The Astonished Eyes of Evening, by Cinema Strange. Recorded 2000-2001.

You produced at least one album that I know of, that you didn't perform on. How did it feel to be the producer instead of the band?

Back in 2014 I was on tour as bassist for an Italian band called The Spiritual Bat (I’ve been guest keyboardist here and there on some of their studio recordings), and when we showed up at this club we were going to play in Tijuana, they had “The Astonished Eyes of Evening” by Cinema Strange playing on the sound system. I was wowed!!! It was as if my own living room had been delivered to me in another country! I’m not really sure if the DJ knew my connection to that music, I kind of think it was just happenstance.

I’ve produced a small grip of songs & albums for others, including Deadfly Ensemble, and also a Portland band called Fever (formerly Bedtime…), but I’m guessing that the Cinema Strange album is the one you know. It all felt really normal, actually. Cinema Strange are amazing musicians. I basically just encouraged them to be their raddest selves, and they really just let me do what I was brought in to do. I amped them up, I gave them feedback, y’know, like “This is rad!”, “Fix that!”, “Add to that”, “Axe that!”. They let me be the arbiter of their disagreements and they gave me a lot of freedom as far as how the final mixes would sound. And they even invited me to come up with a structure for some of their rougher ideas (like the Red And Silver Fantastique, for instance). It was a true team effort, and I think everyone remains to this day feeling it’s like a dream come true, the way that album turned out.

Cinema Strange, Camarillo, California, 2001. (photographer uncertain)

The production aspect is probably my strongest suit, really, when you take the Ashkelon puzzle all apart. I have a bachelor’s degree in music composition, which basically means that I’m versed in an onslaught of 16th century pseudo-scientific equations which, when applied to Western musical tonalities, are thought to be capable of translating emotions across any and all language barriers. I’ve only ever used this information to help me express my own emotions, if I did anything else with them I’d be a film score composer, or just plain insincere. It’s helpful information to have though, and I’d recommend it for anyone college age that thinks they’d like to do something like what I do. I wish I hadn’t waited so long to become truly educated about the physical science of sound though, geeeez! To think I went through my entire thirties not knowing there’s exactly 10 octaves of audible sound??? The lowest sound humans can hear falls somewhere around F or F#, and the highest sound humans can hear sits way up around another F borderline F# at ten octaves higher. And then it occurred to me that any C falls dead center between two F#’s, like, is that why Middle C is thought to sound like the “middle”? I still wonder about that. Anyways, eventually I made up my own set of names for each of the ten octaves of audible sound, & I use them when I’m listening and analyzing and thinking. These are:
Whale Sounds (46hz & below)
Subsonic Bass (46-92hz)
Shadow Bass (92-185hz)
Voodoo (185-370hz)
Bells (370-740hz)
Whistles (740-1480hz)
Heat (1480-2960hz)
Action/Shimmer (2960-5920hz)
Hiss (5920-11840hz)
Air (11840hz & above)
The physical science of sound matters a great deal when a song is in the production phase. People’s eardrums prefer by default a balance between the ten octaves in order to sense beauty, generally speaking, although in musical sound there’s these exceptions that often occur which can be magickal. Had I been able to explain all that stuff logically years before, maybe today I’d be like one of those amazing guys who make pro-recording Youtube videos while sitting in front of a 96 channel mixing console, or like someone who gets their own feature in Tape-Op Magazine, LOL! I can do theoretical analysis like a professor on the human-made auditory cosmos we call “Western Music”. However, I am totally self-educated when it comes to mixing, acquiring knowledge even still where I can, and somehow that’s gotten me by for all this time but I don’t know how. I will confess though that lately I’ve been reading an author named Bob Katz, and that’s made me feel so much more informed than ever when it comes to sound.

Oh, so back to the original question. I had this friend named Shawn Walker back in High School whose dad had pretty nice little recording room, and Shawn by the age of 17 was becoming an incredible songwriter. Shawn gave me the gift of engineering, by engineering and mixing one of my songs in his dad’s studio, and I was absolutely hooked! So I got my first four track cassette machine when I was about 17 or 18. The first thing I did outside of tracking my own songs was to record a punk band from my school. They were a tight band, but then I was listening carefully to their lyrics and I realized they were white supremacist nazis, so I realized I need to be more selective about who I do this stuff for. I didn’t touch anyone else’s music for a long time until for some reason or another I engineered a couple demos for this Santa Barbara thrash metal band who won’t be named, but their friends caught my backyard on fire and stole my neighbor’s pot plants, so I was again deterred from becoming any kind of a professional recording dude. Along came Cinema Strange a couple years later and they were wonderful! That led to me producing some songs for Deadfly Ensemble later on down the road. The most recent band I produced anything for was Solemn Meant Walks from Chicago.

Ascension To The Sun, Portland, 2012. (photo by Kristin Neuschwander)

For a time you performed with members of This Ascension as Ascension to the Sun, playing songs from both This Ascension and Trance to the Sun. How challenging was it to meld the styles of both bands together and make them work on stage? Are there any recordings of those shows that might be released some day?

I wouldn’t say we even tried to “blend”. It was just like, let’s draw up a set list and give it a shot. Had we written any songs, maybe a discussion about blending would have occurred, but the project was only ever assembled for the purpose of performing existing TTTS & TA songs live. Oh, and one of our drummers, Jeremy George, wanted to call the project “To The This”, but he was outvoted, haha!
The project gave me a chance to perform with Cynthia Coulter, which was a pleasantly unanticipated opportunity… Oh, and there’s three Youtube videos, so as for the result, just see for yourself! Honestly, that was just a really short chapter that came together by accident. The video of us playing the last song off “Bloom Flowers, Bloom!” is priceless though, to me at least. “Rex” is the title of that one… I’m so proud of everyone’s performance there. I loved how Daniel Henderson really made my drum machine parts come alive. And, oh, so cool, I got to relearn my original improvised celestial solo from that day in the studio back in 1991 when we did “Chameleon Room”, and to perform it live for the first time ever. So much fun! And Dru & I go way back, like, I think we first met at a Siouxsie concert in 1988. I’m really grateful that we all got to do that handful of shows, how many of them there were I can’t remember. 

Ascension To The Sun, Portland, 2012. LtoR: Ashkelon Sain, Cynthia Coulter, Dru Delmonico, Daniel Henderson, Jeremy George. (photo by Lucretia*Renee Rathmann)

Here’s those videos:
“Chameleon Room”:
“Fearful Symmetry”: 

Ashkelon Sain & Soriah, San Francisco, 2012. (photo by Dru Delmonico)

One of the many artists that you worked with is Soriah, a Tuvan throat singer. How did you get involved with Soriah? There is a spiritual feeling in your music with Soriah, was that intentional?

I don’t think Soriah would object to me calling him musically, how should I say this… promiscuous, hahahahaahhaa! He plays with everybody! And then he flies off to Asia all the time and plays music with everyone there too! In all sincerity though, Soriah has to be the most naturally gifted, musically inclined person I’ve ever had the chance to work with. & I think most people who’ve performed with him would say the same thing. He primarily does conceptual performances, so most of his concerts are one of a kind, one time sets. Soriah had me perform with him a few times when I was new to Portland, and the improvisatory nature of the type of performances we did back then was a different and interesting challenge. After a time, I envisioned a concept for what an album we made together might maybe sound like, and we tried writing and recording some actual “songs” together, and it clicked! In fact, we made two studio albums, plus a live album! They all live here:   

Eztica Tour Flyer, Los Angeles, 2011. LtoR: Daniel Henderson, Ashkelon Sain, Soriah, Marshal Serna, Jonathan Howitt. (photo by Lucretia*Renee Rathmann)

Soriah with Ashkelon Sain went on to become a band in its own right. We brought in two or three other musicians, depending on who was available. We went on tours, made videos. We even toured Japan! Seven years went into that effort. Some of the best shows I ever played came along that pathway. Was it spiritual? I’m going to defer ultimately to Soriah on that one. You’ll have to interview him. To me, I think we just had a sense of what each other would feel like was common ground, and we worked within that framework, that empire, that forest, that temple… hahaha whatever it is! Did you know that it’s now believed that temples were the founding monuments of civilization itself? Where am I going with this? Oh yeah, was our music spiritual? Maybe, but not exactly? Soriah might give you a different answer, but from my point of view, the sound we achieved together, I’d have to call it primordial.
Here’s a video or two:   

Soriah with Ashkelon Sain tour flyer, Jerome, Arizona, 2012. LtoR: Daniel Henderson, Marshal Serna, Soriah, Jonathan Howitt, Ashkelon Sain. (photo by Lucretia*Renee Rathmann)  

Trance To The Sun, Eugene, Oregon, 2015. LtoR Enrique Ugalde (Soriah), Ingrid Luna-Blue, Daniel Henderson, Ashkelon Sain. (photo by Lucretia*Renee Rathmann)

After being away from Trance to the Sun for many years, Trance to the Sun (TTTS for short) released an all new album called Via Subterranea. How did that come about and why then? 

Trance To The Sun, Seattle, 2014. LtoR Ingrid Luna-Blue, Ashkelon Sain, Daniel Henderson. (photo by Terry Luna)

Let’s see, that was like, 2013 when we embarked on that! And it had been some years for sure. The last concert prior to that had been in ’07, and the last album prior to that was released in ’01. I didn’t think I was ever going back to doing more TTTS, and then in 2012 & ‘13 I had been demoing new ideas, some of which were ostensibly for a third album with Soriah, but it was all too far outside the ‘Soriah with Ashkelon’ framework. And then I took a more objective look at that folder full of new music ideas, like the initial demos for Aviatrix, Loch Ness Square & Where Smoke Blows Across, and I was like, well damn, it’s actually more of a rough sketch for a new TTTS album. So I called Ingrid and she really wanted to do it. And Daniel Henderson had had a great time drumming for Ascension To The Sun & Soriah, so he got on board, and we made it real. I mean, when a freak snow storm inundated our first photo shoot, that was when I knew for sure that the stars were aligning just for us! The songwriting was the funnest part of the whole experience though, absolutely. When Ingrid & I got together to do our tag-team wordsmithing and start transforming the raw musical ideas into actual tunes, it was totally alchemical, explosive, mind blowing. Definitely the most enjoyable songwriting experience of my life. It took almost 4 years to realize the album though, which was too long. And it’s hard to be in a long distance project. I had a lot to learn about making mixes using a real drum kit too. I simply didn’t know how much I simply didn’t know until we made that album. Biggest single learning experience of my life.
Oh, but those songs! I love them all.
I’ve seen where you’ve written in your blog, btw, that it’s your favorite album TTTS ever made. That makes me very happy to know. Here it is:
And here’s a video:  

Trance To The Sun, San Francisco, 2014. LtoR Terry Luna, Daniel Henderson, Ingrid Luna-Blue, Ashkelon Sain. (photos by Rafa Corral) 

Devoured By Flowers tour poster, Portland, 2018. Ashkelon Sain & Dorian Campbell. (photo by Marshal Serna)

Devoured by Flowers is one of your more recent bands. Can you tell me more about the band and how it came together? Have any of Devoured by Flowers live shows been recorded for release?

Devoured By Flowers began when I started producing an album for my friend Dorian Campbell. Dorian had been the frontman of this band called Sumerland here in Portland, and I was a huge fan, still am. Anyone who likes Devoured should track down Sumerland’s album “Imaginary Ways”, you’ll love it. Soriah was a member of Sumerland incidentally too, on drums and guitar (he appears under his birth name Enrique Ugalde). After they disbanded, Dorian asked me if I’d be game to produce a solo album for him. He brought over a truckload of songs he’d written, I think this was like 2010. We thought we were supposed to be making a solo acoustic album at first, but all Dorian’s songs held these wide open spaces which cried out for more instrumentation, so I got out my bass and started programming drums, and we brought in Daniel Henderson and Jonathan Howitt to add some live drumming as well. I was still focused on Soriah back in 2010ish, and then in 2012 there was a Sumerland reunion show (with yours truly as guest bass player). In 2012 I actually performed as a member of six different bands! 

Sumerland, Portland, 2012. LtoR: Dorian Campbell, Ashkelon Sain, Cedric Justice, Enrique Ugalde (Soriah), Marshal Serna. (photo by Lucretia*Renee Rathmann)

After that crazy year, for 2013 I switched gears completely and started working on the new Trance To The Sun album, so what Dorian & I were working on never really got off the ground until 2016, when we played our first gig opening for The Spiritual Bat (That initial DBF lineup featured me on bass and Soriah on guitar, actually!). Devoured By Flowers went through a number of very cool and interesting lineups over the next 3 years. And we played up and down the West Coast, just basically enjoying being in a band. Dorian & I were the core members, and we had some excellent other players along the way, but a lasting full time lineup of other musicians never really took hold.


Devoured By Flowers, Los Angeles, 2018. LtoR: Andrew Stromstad, Dorian Campbell, Ashkelon Sain, Aaron Nicholes. (photo by Dizhan Blu)

You know how it is these days, everybody is in multiple bands, working multiple jobs, falling in love and moving away. How we actually pull this off, sometimes I don’t even know. Our first album “Moonscape Hotel” was finished in 2018, and then our second album “Phantom Time Traveler” was done in 2020.

And I don’t know if this is what you mean by a “release”, but we have some concert videos on Youtube that aren’t bad at all. This one I’ll link is perhaps my favorite. Daniel Henderson set up his camera and let it roll before climbing behind the drums. It features Devoured By Flowers (with our friend Devon Lopetrone on bass) playing at 1 in the morning on the third night of a music festival called Litha Cascadia, which before the Covapocalypse was held annually at a venue called Red Hawk Avalon, which is on private land in the Washington woods near Olympia (hopefully this fest will return):
And then there’s a full concert set worth of individual song videos beginning here, with the talented Sandi Leeper on keys, and the legendary Andrew Stromstad on bass. Same band, different lineup. Very tight! : 

Newest Releases, 2020/2021: Remasters of Venomous Eve, “Bloom Flowers, Bloom!”, “Phantom Time Traveler” by Devoured by Flowers… & the new Trance To The Moon 2xEP “Lavendar Skies”.

Recently you released remastered versions of the TTTS albums “Bloom Flowers, Bloom!” & “Venomous Eve”, both of which originally were released in the 90s. Why did you decide to revisit these two albums in particular? What challenges were involved in re-mastering the album? Did you have to approach them differently?

Well, I just love those albums SO MUCH! It was on my to-do list since forever to have those be remastered someday. Quarantine yielded the time, so 2020 became the year, with “Bloom” being ready by December, and “VenEve” coming up behind it and finally being printed in March of 2021. I did the preliminary audio restoration and spot fixes myself, and I hired Doug Krebs to do the final mastering. He did a really super excellent job I might add!
As far as my bringing any expertise to the remastering process, I really owe it to all the experience gained from struggling to mix “Via Subterranea”. It was the lessons from that whole endeavor that made me able to do the front end restoration work needed to enable these two remasters sound as beautiful as they do. As I said, I learned a ton from that experience.
I don’t know if this is interesting to anyone, but what I mean by preliminary audio restoration is I isolate audio frequencies that are out of range with the rest of the sound, like I look at every little tone that bends your eardrums excessively out of shape, and using highly fine tuned EQ technology I knock all those frequencies into a more logical place, approaching them one by one. And you asked… was the experience different between the two albums? Yes. For “Venomous Eve” those transients, as we call them, the ones in need of individual attenuation numbered in the hundreds. On “Bloom” they numbered in the thousands (it sounds amazing after mastering if you take the time to do that first). I’d been slowly working on “Bloom” for years. Come 2020, I finally found I had the time to finish the project.

You have appeared on many albums, produced, and recorded in many different styles, what are some of the things that you achieved musically that you the most pleased with?

Bringing people together. Somehow that turns out to be the most rewarding thing, actually. People form friendships all the time based on their mutual gravitation to certain music. Whole crowds condense on concerts with the shared realization that they’re at an important time and place. I feel it every time I set foot in the venue at a great show.
One thing I’ve done which I’m not sure very many people know about is I played guitar on and off for more than a decade in a Portland-centric Cure tribute band called TheXplodingBoys. And this exemplifies what I’m saying, aside from it being great practice and discipline and all, I didn’t do it to glorify the Cure, or pretend I was someone I wasn’t. I didn’t do it to go on tour or prove anything. I did it because of the awesome sense of community that arose from us performing those shows here locally. We did a final show in 2019, and if you watch it you’re sure to see what I mean:

There’s plenty more videos of TheXplodingboys on Youtube, but this one in particular of “The Kiss” is something I still really enjoy, and I think it also exemplifies what I’m saying:

Like I said, the best thing about that experience, and I think these videos reflect it, is the awesome vibe within the crowd. It seems to me, in our culture as I know it, loving the same music is the superfuel of making friends. Performing music as a band can be as well, like, I sometimes ask myself, who would I even know in this world if it weren’t for the experience of playing and creating music? I shudder to contemplate the void my life might actually be without the friends I’ve made through music.

TheXplodingBoys, Portland, 2012. LtoR: Michelle Peccia, Viktor Nova, Cedric Justice, Daniel Henderson, Ashkelon Sain. (photographer unknown)

Not a lot of people know that you've often written lyrics, as well as music. You have also done titling for songs and albums. Do you want to write more lyrics? Occasionally you've made up words. How much do you value that word play?

The funny thing about my lyric writing is, well most of the time anyway, I seem to only be interested in writing lyrics vicariously, as in, I have to know who is going to sing it, and I imagine it in their voice. So that means I have to know the person, and it’s usually the knowledge of their perspective that becomes the inspiration for what I write. It helps immensely though to work with singers who are great lyricists themselves, like, because I don’t really have this great overwhelming need to write the words to my music on my own. Lyric quality though, that’s massively important to me. So I’ve always sought out singers who had a way with words. It’s as important as voice tone. Thinking back to like, “Urchin Tear Soda” & that era, there were times when I was doing a fair bit of lyric writing. I definitely liked writing specifically for Ingrid, since she was such a great friend, and we could relate to one another, and we shared a very blunt sense of humor. When it comes to Devoured By Flowers or Trance To The Moon though, I just pipe up with a few word suggestions when that’s called for, and that’s fine with me.

Ashkelon Sain, Seattle, 2012. (photo by Photo Slavery)

You also ask about titles? So, dude, where did you get your information? Yes, you’re in fact right, I have been the one to give titles to most of the songs when it comes to Trance To The Sun & Trance To The Moon. As a rule I come up with some sort of a title before the words are even written. Those initial titles aren’t necessarily final, and they don’t stick every time, but in general I find it works better that way if I start with one. Maybe it’s like, if I give a singer a musical sketch and say sorry, I don’t have a title, then that’s too non-committal. It seems that on some level maybe I have to know what emotion I’m conveying from the music, and summarize that somehow in a title.
I’m a big fan of song titles, especially long ones, or extremely short ones. I’ve always loved the most those ones that wrap around the back of the album cover, like “The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get”, or “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun”. Trance To The Sun’s song “Calling All Vanished Airplanes” aspires to be part of that long song name club. Sometimes I even think of the title before I play or compose any music at all. As a matter of fact, from time to time I’ve maintained lists of proposed future song titles. I have notebooks with pages devoted to song title ideas. There’s a lot of ancient notebooks on certain shelves around here.

Monet Alarie, the voice of Trance To The Moon, Portland, 2021. (photo by Ashk)

Your new project is called Trance to the Moon. What would you like people to know about Trance to the Moon? How will this project different from TTTS?

The most important thing to know is I discovered an extraordinary new voice to collaborate with, and that voice belongs to Monet Alarie. They’re a great friend as well. As of this point we’ve released seven songs, and those are up on as well as Spotify & all that. We have a very cool new video on Youtube: and another video is on the way, along with about 6 more songs we’ve written, so there’s more stuff in the pipeline for sure. And I’m just really excited about it all, because this new stuff we’re doing is awesome & beautiful. Also, we’re participating on a Killing Joke Tribute album, due out on Halloween. We have a debut live performance coming up in December. If things ever become truly ok again in this world we’ll play more shows, maybe tour, who knows?

What musical projects are there that you haven't done yet, but would very much like to try?

You kill me! I have no idea at the moment! I usually feel like I’m going full throttle all the time just to try to keep up with the ideas that emerged maybe six months or a year ago! Maybe I just want to lean more and more in the direction of Psychedelic Haunted Forest Goth?


Ashkelon Sain, Portland, 2021. (photo by Ogo Eion)