"I believe it's up to everyone to form their own ideas. Open up your mind and let everything come through." — Christian Bland
The Black Angels, the psychedelic rock band from Austin Texas, formed in May 2004, and took their name from the Velvet Underground song "The Black Angel's Death Song". The Angel's sound, songs, and hooks are meticulously Lego-ed together from whatever they are drawn to, listening to from 'back-in-the-day' . These ideas then get filtered through the band to produce a mix of then and now sounds. From the beginning, they've always inspired by early Pink Floyd shows, and Velvet Underground live shows.. The Black Angels had full on lights and projection, to create a total visual and audio experience.
While the instrumentation is drenched in potent acid nostalgia, the lyrics attempt to hold on to more up-to-date themes, usually revolving around societal problems. They've been concentrating on ‘60s-rooted psychedelia, but more intense and dirty. On top of these acid rock leanings, somber lyrics layered on keyboards, help create their grooves, envelope their imagery, with a dose of flying on acid out in the desert, and being completely disoriented - type feel. Their LP, 'Passover', carried on with ‘60s-70s rooted psychedelia. They built reputation for their stoner-heavy inspired, psychedelic-garage rock, before breaking through in 2010 with 'Phosphene Dream'.
The Black Angels released their first full-length album in 4 years. This, their 5th album, 'Death Song', marks a return to the drones that made their first two LP's poke fans in their 3rd eye. The influence of the 13th Floor Elevators permeates throughout this mood shifting, clean production. Was their aim to please both the psycho-naught purists and hipsters? Their instrumentation is soaked in very familiar acid nostalgia, the lyrics touch more up-to-date themes, usually revolving around societal issues. The Black Angels have worked for more than a decade to refine their aesthetics. Tracing their roots to the Lone Star State, the Black Angels salute the tradition, and strive to recapture the essence of the psychedelic ’60s/70's with a 2018 makeover.
Sometimes, an artist's ‘side project’ is to put out music slapped together between tours of the artist’s primary band. But, some side projects may often almost outshine the main band and take on a life of their own. Calexico started out as a side project for Giant Sand; The Breeders came out of the Pixies; Atlas Sound - Deerhunter, Moderat - Apparat, This Mortal Coil - Cocteau Twins, and others. With that said, Christian Bland and the Revelators, were founded in 2007. It features Christian Bland on vocals, guitar, Bob Mustachio on drums, Ramiro Verdooren on organ, guitar, and Daron Tamir Bantam on bass.
Let's begin with what's happening now with your groups, releases, and gigs?
The Black Angels just announced a spring tour to the Eastern US with Black Lips. So we’re looking forward to that. We'll also be heading to Australia for 4 shows March 10-13.So lots of touring the first half of the year, and then hopefully we'll get back to writing the next record this summer and fall.
We’re also starting to gear up for the 10th annual Levitation festival happening in Austin April 26-29. We’re excited to be having the festival again after a 2 year break due to the cancellation because of bad weather in 2016.
I’ve also started working on my 4th Christian Bland & The Revelators album at The Austin Recording Service with Brett Orrison and Bob Mustachio. I’m hoping to release it late this this year or early in 2019.
Having more than one band going, writing, recording, touring plus doing the Levitation Fests in various cities, how do you do it?
I feel like I always need to be doing something. Who knows how long i’ll be around, so i’d like to create as much as I can while I’m here. I’ve surrounded myself with other people who enjoy creating as much as I do, so together our output is that much more.
In checking out the lyrics and themes in the songs put out by your various bands, one may ask, is it safer/necessary for artists to use allegories, as opposed to coming out and calling out the 'elephant(s)' in the room, as many other artists do?
I’m not sure that it’s safer. I think I just call it like it see it. I report back my observations and experiences. All of our songs, both The Black Angels and my solo material, is a catharsis. It’s my outlet so that I stay sane. Without music I’d lose my mind. I think its important to realize that you’ve gotta learn first in order to unlearn so that you can relearn, if you don’t then you’ll just do and think as you're told. I believe it's up to everyone to form their own ideas. Open up your mind and let everything come thru, as the 13th Floor Elevators taught us.
Is it the case that people in music, the arts and entertainment who are too vocal on social/political issues get 'targeted' for bad things to happen to them?
Anyone that has an outspoken opinion opens themselves to criticism and potentially harm. People enjoy bringing other people down to their level. It makes them feel better about themselves. Critiques are pros at tearing things down and artists are pros at creating and buildings things up.
How do you feel about all the stars that have died over the past few years? Were any of them 'pushed'? Did any one death in particular strike a chord with you?
I think its really sad, but it’s inevitable, and if you look at the time when these stars were born, which is the 1940’s, and the average lifespan being 70-80 years old, then we have to expect them to be dying right around now. I think some artists were pushed too hard; examples being Syd Barrett & Kurt Cobain. I’m not sure either of them knew what they were getting themselves into at the beginning.
What was growing up like for you? What prompeted you to pick up a guitar?
I was a preacher's son who grew up in a Christian family attending Sunday school and church every Sunday. My Dad was a high jumper for the University of Maryland in the 1960’s and he passed along his genes to me. I jumped at Florida State and the University of Texas. I injured myself so many times (2 knee surgeries and a broken ankle) that I decided to pick up the guitar instead of pursuing my original goal of jumping in the Olympics. At the time, it was devastating to not continue jumping, but it’s the best thing that ever happened to me. It changed the course of my life and eventually The Black Angel were formed.
Is it true that bands no longer have to deal with, or get signed to, a major label in order to succeed?
I guess it depends on the bands ultimate goal and what your definition of success is. If it’s just to be able to eat and have a place to live, then yes, I believe you can do that without a major label.
Recall a worst experience while touring?
One that comes to mind is having my 1978 lefty Rickenbacker 345 cracked in half at the Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris at the very beginning of tour when a luggage transport vehicle ran it over out on the tarmac. Left handed guitars aren’t very easy to come by especially Rickenbackers.
Can you share any tips for new artists to protect their art, and avoid 'landmines'?
Write creative music that no one can replicate, sign up with a songwriting company and copyright your stuff.
Do you record on tape, direct to digital? What do you use and how do you use it?
Usually always tape. It lends to better performances when you can't constantly perfect what you’re doing. You’ve really got to have the performance down beforehand. We use 2” tape on a 24 track machine and track live all together, then we layer it up.
To your ears, is the sound of vinyl better than digital? Has the quality of digital equaled or surpassed all that vinyl has to offer?
Vinyl always wins.
Is the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame really a sham as some artists contend?
To a certain degree. Rock n roll’s about rebellion so if your accepted by the masses into a ‘hall of fame’ it almost defeats the purpose. You satisfied the stats quo instead of disrupting it. But at the same time, if you’re an innovator and at the forefront of your craft then I think you should be recognized for that.
Who should be in, that is not?
I think LOVE should be inducted, but then again, it's probably better that they aren't!
And is it the Beatles or the Stones?
The first album I fell in love with was Sgt. Peppers, so I’d have to go with the Beatles, but I’m a huge Brian Jones era Rolling Stones fan as well. You cant beat 'Paint it Black'.