Estradasphere's previous efforts ran the gamut from jazz, Klezmer, disco, Nintendo music, film noir, metal, surf guitar, doo wop, Motown, grind, TV themes, Middle Eastern sensibilities, calypso, Tropicalia, and lounge, to name a few. Now they've released Palace of Mirrors, an effort that was over three years in the making. It's a work best described as a score to a film that can never be made.
How do you feel the new Estradasphere album's come out?
I'm the happiest with it out of all of our records by a big margin. Doing too many styles can be a bit of a trap where you spread yourself too thin rather than focusing on what you do the best. We've always had a song or two on our albums that have been metal songs and they sounded like they were made by a different band. A lot of that was influenced by Dave [Murray], our old drummer. They sounded great, but not very much like Estradasphere. This time around, if there's a metal song it's in a style that is more up our Ally. There's the one song that's on the Internet now, Smuggled Mutation , it's Romanian Gypsy Death Metal song all the way through. There's no vocalist or black metal keyboard sound; it's just the band doing a metal song with violins.
We've also learned a lot about the recording process over the years. We've made a good sounding record that has an aesthetic that we find pleasing. It has a lot of homage to sixties cinema. It's more focused. There's a complete concept that goes through out the whole thing rather than being, "Here's my two songs, and here's your two songs."
What was the recording process like for this release?
It was a nice protracted experience. It took at least three years of straight recording. We'd always had a similar process where we'd have to write and arrange our songs for a long time. We, pretty much, don't do anything live because it'd be too hard. It's too much, so we cut scratch tracks in our own studio first, we do drums, and then we take it back and over dub for years. We did a lot of orchestration this time. If we wanted strings in the past, we had our violinist Timb [Harris] over dub all the parts. But this time we were searching for the resonance of the instruments together, so we'd hire a string quartet, a brass section, and we even did small choir parts where we'd record as many things as a group as we could to preserve the resonance.
What was the reason for the label switch?
Mimicry was always a small thing. Trey [Spruance] does it to help out his friends. It's a cool thing to be exposed to all of those people but, at the same time, it's not a label with tons of employees who are working like bulldogs to promote you. We've been thinking about switching for a long time, but haven't been pursuing it. We sent over a copy of the new record when we finished it to The End and they really liked it. Trey was very supportive of it.
Will this tour your about embark on be the largest tour you've done?
By far. The last time we were out we were a band with a broken axle stuck in the mud doing the best we could. There was no consensus as to what this band was, so we were just floating around. This time we have much more elaborate stuff worked out on every level for the live show. Not only are we going to be playing the entire album front to back as one set, we're also playing an entire set of really interesting stuff. I'm not going to give it away, but it'll be stuff like classical violin concertos adapted for a rock metal band, Chopin pieces transposed to guitar, and covers of Italian cinema scores from the sixties, like [Ennio] Morricone.
How do you feel about Estradasphere's albums being available on file
Honestly, for a band like us, I don't think it hurts us. The bands it tends to hurt seem to be the ones earning millions of dollars. Anything else seems to act as promotion. I've seen tons of people that know about us because their friend burned them a CD. You don't seem to make much money off of selling CDs anyway you slice it.
What are some of your favorite video game scores?
I know I've been the big video game mogul, but the only games I ever played were on the original Nintendo, like Zelda and Mario. I liked those scores a lot. As far as new stuff, I despise the medium of it and think it's a complete waste of time. It's a manufactured reality that draws people away from using their own minds for creativity. I had the early Nintendo system and it was fun, but that might have been because of how old I was at the time. If it came out today, I might not think much of it. But the music is very good on those games. Fantastic compositions, I'd have to say.
What are some other things that have influenced Estradasphere's sound?
Sixties and seventies foreign cinema scores. Ennio Morricone is one of our favorite composers. Nino Rota is right up there. Peter Thomas . There's a bunch of guys whose names I don't know because they're not really famous, but I have a lot of their music in my library. Bernard Herman is one of my favorite composers. He had the ability to make something really scary and really beautiful simultaneously, and that's a pretty rare talent. We're playing an adaptation of his score for Vertigo on this tour.
What were some musical acts that you'd encountered that hugely impacted your development as a musician?
There wasn't much, except for Mr. Bungle, when I was in high school. When I took LSD and listened to the first Mr. Bungle album my life changed immediately and forever. It was not only that I saw you could do this crazy kind of music I'd never heard, but there was something about the production, especially on Disco Volante, that I was almost able to absorb almost on a psychic level at the heightened state I was in. It was something I was able to take with me.
Do you see yourself and Estradasphere moving into scoring in the future?
I think we could get into doing some of that. Movie music has become a total joke. It's become schlock made by people with computer set-ups in LA. I would hardly even call them musicians. The music in movies now is just there to tell you how to feel. "It's action, so it's intense, look at it!"
What sort of role do you think critics should play in people's consumption of music?
I'm always down for some good well-informed criticism. I don't know how to reconcile that to the modern state of music. I don't think that what Estradasphere does would even apply to most people who review music because they don't understand the context of it. Most people don't even know that some of the genres that we play exist. I think they could play a very good role, as long it's a well-informed reviewer who knows what they're talking about be it favorable or unfavorable. A well-founded review is always a good thing.
Do you have any recommendations for readers?
I've been reading a lot of Philip K. Dick. I like almost anything by him. Most of the things I listen to aren't bands. It's mostly film composers. I'm a huge Beach Boys fan, especially their psychedelic stuff. The unreleased cut of Smile from 1967 that's only available on bootlegs, I think, is the greatest recording of all time. It stands as the only real summation of the entire history of Western music, put into a psychedelic three-part rock and roll symphony. I have a cut of that that I've been working on myself for years. I mourn the fact that this album never came out in '67. I think it would have changed music significantly. We wouldn't have seen a coked out disco decade followed by the most bizarre decade of cultural degeneration that has ever existed, the eighties. There's a fantastic soundtrack by Nino Rota for the film called Juliet of the Spirits, which I think is one of the best sound tracks of all time. We're playing some of those tunes on the tour. I love Raymond Scott , the guy who made cartoon music before cartoons existed.
What do you like to do after a performance?
We usually stay at fans' houses. One, it saves on money and, two, it's much more personal. You get to meet people, see their houses, find out how they live, and sometimes other fans come back and hang out with us. We'll play a little more music acoustically, maybe, or if there's a piano around we'll bang out some obscure songs on it.
Estradasphere will be appearing Friday October 13th at the Lion's Den .