November 22nd, 2010 | Interviews

shea M. gauer

Black Mountain’s Jeremy Schmidt gets interviewed every year by L.A. RECORD which is probably the best way to determine how much (or if too much) time is passing in your life. His new album has a shark exploding from an office building and he speaks now from a chilly place where sharks rarely go. This interview by Chris Ziegler.

I read that Amber got stung by a jellyfish in San Diego. What is the most vicious animal attack you’ve ever experienced and does that in any way inform the cover of the new record?
Jeremy Schmidt (keyboards): I can’t recall a time when I’ve been attacked by a wild animal.
How about a domestic animal?
Just Steve [McBean] occasionally. He turns into a prehistoric bird every now and caws at me and swooping much too close for comfort.
We just talked to a someone who said he loves birds because birds are a way out of the matrix. What do you think about that?
They exist outside of the matrix or they’re the ticket out? Shit, I don’t know. It sounds plausible to a certain extent. It’s nothing I’ve given much thought to but I guess it’s plausible. I can confirm that that jellyfish story is true. As far as animal attacks informing the album cover, I can’t say that’s true in any way.
Have you ever been attacked by a shark coming out of a building in Vancouver?
I feel it’s probably unlikely. If it happened I’d probably be in such awe that it wouldn’t be harrowing. It’d be amazing.
If you’ve got to go, because we’ve all got to go at some point, what would be the most spectacular satisfying way to pass from this stage of human life?
How about flying too close to the sun and bursting into flames? That seems like it would be at least dramatic in some way. You couldn’t complain about that being a dull way to go.
And everybody would get to see it too. It’d be a shared experience.
That’s the whole Icarus comparison would probably get a bit tedious, but then again, I wouldn’t be alive to have to deal with it. That’d really be the only downside.
Does this have any application in music at all? Is it truly better to burn out than to fade away?
I guess it depends who you ask. I don’t think any band would admit to fading away but there’s plenty that do.
I know you guys recorded at Sunset Sound—any ghost stories?
No, we didn’t hear any good ghost stories. One of the somewhat spooky aspects is they have the same reverb chamber that they’ve had forever. When you’re hearing your voice or instruments coming back to you through the reverb chamber you’re hearing it come through the same chamber that so many people in the past have passed through which is kind of allusory to a ghost. Also I remember going up in the attic to hear what the sound is like and it was pretty cool. They have a lot of weird old boxes of tape lying around because I think they used to use that studio for old Walt Disney soundtracks before it became a proper music studio. It was kind of an annex to the Walt Disney sound recording. That was kind of interesting bit of history.
Are there outtakes of people doing Mickey Mouse and saying, “Ah fuck! Goddamnit! Start over!”?
That’d be great to hear. People doing Mickey Mouse and losing their temper.
You could destroy thousands of childhood memories at once.
[In Mickey Mouse voice] ‘I don’t have time for this shit!’
The Guardian said, ‘Suspension of reality is crucial to Black Mountain.’ What do you think of that?
I don’t know what they mean by that. I wonder what reality we’re suspending when we’re playing live, or what neighboring dimension we’re occupying while reality continues on around us. I’d love to have that explained to me, but it sounds good, so sure, why not? We’re sort of in our own world, our own realm, our own trajectory to a certain degree.
What’s the most communal suspension of reality you guys have all shared?
Shit, man. You’ve got some cosmic questions. I don’t know.
We interviewed Moris Tepper, and he was talking about how whenever he sees a bird up ahead he cringes and hides and he thinks it’s because 50,000 years ago humans would be attacked by predatory birds so he still has a caveman impulse. What is your most primitive caveman impulse?
To sleep.
You’re the guy in the back of the cave.
I’m the guy who stays in the cave long enough til the sun comes up and misses the hunt. I love sleeping in.
Did that influence you in any way to play the synthesizers and keyboard?
It’s sort of in the back of the cave, isn’t it? It must be some primordial impulse that drives me towards playing electric keyboard instruments, I’m sure.
In your entire career in Black Mountain, what’s the nicest car or motorcycle you ever got to ride solely because of being in the band?
I haven’t ever been on a motorcycle since I’ve been in the band. I was on one once in high school. I can’t think of an occasion when we’ve been in a nice fancy car. It’d be really cool to say I’ve been in a Delorean, or done a Delorean tour, where we each have a Delorean and we had a touring convoy of Deloreans. Brushed silver Deloreans cruising down. That’s a sexy thing to imagine.
If you’re gonna do that, you all gotta be dressed in skin tight leather, or skin tight silver mylar—so which one do you wanna go with?
I’m going to go with mylar to keep with the brushed steel. I’m gonna go with the shiny-ness. It sounds like a Daft Punk photoshoot for sure.
What’s the best shot of alcohol to make a stranger into a friend for life?
Good question. I’m worried about what might unfold. That’s a really hard one to say. I wanna say a tequila shot. Not that I’m really crazy about tequila shots. But they seem like they’d be the one to bring people together late at night when you probably should’ve stopped drinking. I’m going to put a shout out for this Czech liquor I really like called Becherovka. It’s an herbal liquor that’s like Jagermeister but less syrupy. It’s much better. It’s sort of like a bitters or a tonic. It has a slight gingerbread nuance. Shots of that would probably go over well. You never see it around much though. You can buy it at gas stations in the Czech Republic. I like that stuff.
Before you got a Mellotron, how intense would you say your desire was to get a Mellotron?
It was definitely a holy grail item, but I never imagined I would be able to find one within my means. It wasn’t something I pragmatically desired. It was one of those pipe dream desires. Somebody I know tracked someone down who was selling one. They ended up selling it to a collector for a lot of money. And then the guy said he knew someone who had one, and I bought it off this fellow who lived in the interior of BC of all places. It used to belong to a Canadian band called Strange Advance, who you’ve likely not heard of if you’re not from Canada. They were a bit New Wave, a bit proggy element. It was his Mellotron. It’s been in BC for most of its life. It was all covered in snow obviously.
People have been talking about how ‘Radiant Hearts’ is kind of a nuclear vibe…
Nuclear is a hard word to sing. It proves difficult for Steve to get his beak around. His bird mouth. But he did.
What’s the easiest thing to get his beak around?
I don’t know—whiskey, I guess.
What’s the heaviest object you’ve ever dropped on any part of your body?
Sunn0))) the band. I dropped a cassette on my foot. A Sunn0))) cassette and it just went straight through my foot and the floor of course. I don’t know how I lifed it in the first place.
I interviewed Steven and in a moment of admirable candor, he told me he gets really horny when he eats. Is this something that affects the operations of the band?
Yeah—at band banquets we have to be careful cause he might start taking all of his clothes off and rub almond butter all over himself. Speaking of which, I need to go eat something. I don’t know if it’ll make me horny.
Maybe it’ll could somehow satisfy you in more wholesome ways.
What could be a more wholesome satisfaction? Actually, that’s not satisfying, that’s frustrating. That’s like being constipated in two different ways on the road.