Black Mountain were the first band ever interviewed for L.A. RECORD. They since went on to release another excellent album and to share bills with Bob Dylan and Judas Priest. Keyboard player and designer Jeremy Schmidt speaks from somewhere that is not a motel room in Blythe, California. This interview by Chris Ziegler.
How does it feel to be just one producer away from Celine Dion?
Jeremy Schmidt (keys): John Congleton? I didn’t know that. But I’ve always certainly wanted to get close to Celine Dion, you know. I just want to see if she is actually a robot. Then maybe I could figure out how to switch her off or something.
Black Mountain has played with Dylan, Coldplay, Tom Petty, Neil Young and Judas Priest—which of those impressed your parents the most?
My parents? Definitely the Coldplay thing. They were just impressed by that because we actually went on tour with them—my mom specifically. Talking to her brothers and sisters who are from the U.K., she became quickly informed as to where their place in the world was. It is definitely currency that parents can understand a bit better than other barometers of success that you might actually consider important to yourself.
Is it true that you still work in a department store?
I work there a couple days a week. Well, these days there is a recession going on, so I only work one day a week. I still hang on to that job just to balance against my free time.
Were they impressed by the Coldplay thing?
My boss thought that was pretty cool.
So touring with Coldplay really positively affected your life.
It really translates well to the old straight world—that kind of thing. It didn’t feel like any kind of apex to our career, but its something that seemed to translate well to bosses and parents cause they’re like, ‘Ok, something like Coldplay—I can gauge that, I can understand that exists in the upper echelon of success.’ And if you can sort of relate yourself to that in some way then they’re like, ‘Ok—I see.’
SPIN described you as ‘stripper-pole music from Middle Earth’—have you ever weathered a more jarring comparison?
Maybe that’s not so jarring.
Are you then stripper pole music from somewhere else or are you a different kind of music from Middle Earth?
It’s like if the universe were spinning on an axis.
Are you saying the universe is itself spinning on a stripper pole?
You could stuff a dollar bill into the center of the universe.
There was a quote Stephen had in an interview about how when he was a kid he would get his Led Zeppelin record and lean back in his beanbag chair with headphones and just transport himself away. Is that something you ever did?
Oh yeah. Definitely like some Pink Floyd records. Or Jean Michel Jarre “Oxygen.” Talk Talk. Actually I just started listening again to the Talk Talk record—The Colour of Spring. That’s really like a great headphone—or ‘head’ album, I guess. There is so much sonic detail and so much attention to space and atmosphere on that record. Actually most of their records that they did after that— Spirit of Eden is another great one. King Crimson has some good ones like that—good headphone jams.
As Black Mountain’s cover designer, did you ever consider a Tarkus-like prog-monster for an image?
It’s never been discussed. But I know have a copy of the Tarkus kicking around here somewhere. That’s a crazy record because it sort of looks like children’s story art, but its so sinister looking at the same time. Rainbow kind of color schemes but then a lion with a scorpion tail or a mechanical pterodactyl or an armadillo tank—and you’re like, ‘Whoa.’
What is your favorite gatefold artwork from your own record collection?
Hawkwind had some pretty great foldouts, I don’t know if they are my favorite but they are the ones that really stand out. They have this one record that actually folds out into like, a shield. Warrior On The Edge of Time. I think they have that double live one where it has a huge foldout—like an eight-panel foldout. There is a Chilliwack album—I think its maybe their second—and the gatefold is just like a picture of an island in the sea. It’s this murky kind of photograph and no text or anything. It looks like the piece of the background of a Polaroid that’s been blown up into a giant gatefold. It’s quite minimal but its really nice looking. Shit, I could go on about record covers.
How about Rocket Robin Hood—was there ever a greater animated series?
Did somebody mention that in an interview or something—probably me? What was the context in which I mentioned Rocket Robin Hood?
An aside to somebody who I don’t think understood what you were talking about.
If I understood what I was talking about! I remember seeing it when I was a kid—I remember it had pretty cool sonic detail and weird Theremin sounds and sample-and-hold kinda stuff so that’s probably what I was talking about. That was a good one. I remember the intro pretty well—they kept just looping. They’d repeat scenes of the guy eating—the Friar Tuck guy with everybody banging into his stomach.
Did that ever affect the dreams you had as a kid?
I don’t remember any cell repeats in my dreams.
What other mind-warping things like Rocket Robin Hood were you exposed to as a kid?
All kinds of stuff—the early notions about futuristic sensibilities. V was a good one! That peril about the future and invasions and how they would equate that with certain sorts of technology—yet that sort of technology was the creative framework for a lot of things. I think people still have that idea of technology—everyone embraces it but they also see it as possibly the main factor in the dissolution of the human race or the soul. I suppose the effects could only be subliminal, really—I mean for me being a keyboard player and being really into synthesizers, I’ve picked up all the antiquated instruments that were responsible for making all these otherworldly sounds that fascinated me as a kid. And I didn’t know where they came from or what they were—it was uncanny in some way.
Does this explain your pet Mellotron?
For sure—the Mellotron is definitely the epitome of my fascination with all things archaic in that way.
You were the very first band we ever interviewed—how have you changed as a human being during the intervening years?
I’m sure there was something between then and now that I forgot to do. I’m sure I left a door unlocked sometime between 2005 and 2008. Or I forgot to make a mix tape for somebody somewhere.
BLACK MOUNTAIN WITH THE SADIES ON SAT., MAR. 21, AT THE ECHOPLEX, 1154 GLENDALE BLVD., ECHO PARK. 8:30 PM / $12-$14 / 18+. ATTHEECHO.COM. BLACK MOUNTAIN’S IN THE FUTURE IS OUT NOW ON JAGJAGUWAR. VISIT BLACK MOUNTAIN AT BLACKMOUNTAINARMY.COM OR MYSPACE.COM/BLACKMOUNTAIN.