Thursday, May 30, 2013

Salad Influence - "STT"/Interview with Michael Turner

Budgie came to mind, a logged memory somewhere in the back of my skull that was revived while listening to trio Salad Influence's debut EP STT.

Some of these are dusty scary clothes that the Cure used to wear back in 1971 before casting them aside for Nature and exploding teardrops. There's a hope in the reverbed vocals and chorus, as though the Youth has learned to Cry, and realized that the moroseness that surrounds them is as important as the light.

Salad Influence contains singer/guitarist Michael Turner, who has become one of the most prolific songwriters between these two cities. I first saw him at Cajun restaurant sprawling in a band called The Legendary Singers either in the late 90s or early 00s...I wholly forget the year. But the band was a garden of amazing. Turner has been in many of my favorite bands in Lexington, including The Elephants and Warmer Milks, a dedicated project that saw him focus on songwriting in all directions, exploring genres freely. Performing solo as Ma Turner, he's continued this philosophy, with no recording even remotely the same. His work with Cross seems to explores a variegated trail of diverse rock n rolls.

This is Turner mixing mirth Renaissance-style with the likes of Joe Mangum of Lexington's The Elsinores. This is a trio that brainstorms a coin of four sides, somewhere on a mission between the missing links of Nuggets and Pebbles; a bridge in the examination of psychedelia that exists in modern Kentucky music.  

Mike's voice drops at times into an "Epitaph"-era Rob Halford, slugging a pitch that hides in a split melancholic falsetto during the third track, which wabbles fire and lava lamp in its delivery. There's a drag to it's freedom, slightly slower than a mid-tempo carouse, but more a dawdle toward its goal. I'm a few steps behind and it is feeding time.

The last chunk of record literates into a chorus amidst an "Oscillate Wildly" hope.

Michael agreed to talk to me over 90 miles of technology about Salad Influence and other subjects.

Gloam: Let's just start talking, see where this goes. We have such a long history together, I figure it can bump up, down, sideways, backwards, forwards. This'll be nonlinear as shit, because that's how you and I get, methinks.
First questions are about now(ish):

Salad Influence: give me the reason why it was started. I mean, you just put out a new Ma Turner EP last year, and since then a bunch of singles/songs (i don't know what to call them on bandcamp...nothing is real anymore).
Mike: Summer of last year, Joe Mangum and I had been hanging out nearly every day, listening to music and having lengthy discussions about literature and visual media as well as the human/inhuman condition. It was only natural to gravitate towards starting something up. Within weeks of meeting, the two us of were talking about "the band". In January of this year we started jamming with him on drums and me on guitar. Going into it I knew that I wanted to tune my high E to B and that Joe and I would harmonize as much as possible. Our first practice we wrote "Calling Light", "A Word" and "Colby". No microphone/pa system. I think we were singing loud to the point that it was yelling. A few practices in, Paul Eldred (The Thirties, CROSS) came over and within minutes had him writing parts on bass, jamming. Not that I didn't like the way things sounded with just Joe and I but Paul's role instantly busted things open. Three Amigos now. On lots of coffee.

Yeah, five two song "singles" and that Vibrant Light EP which has seven songs. I also recorded a split cassette with J Marinelli, eight songs on my side. Twenty-five songs recorded between January and March of this year on my lonesome.  Salad Influence tracked eleven songs this month (which are going to dispersed between cassette and 7")and CROSS recorded a c32 in like January or something. What a mess.

Cross is definitely seems to be doing well...The LP was fucking amazing...definitely a progression that made sense from the double-cassette.

Live in the zone, the train stays on track. I feel the songs have been there since the moment Clint and I started writing together. We worked hard and all over the place between the first release and the LP. Constantly rewrote songs, wrote some new ones, abandoned them, wrote even newer songs, chucked some of those, came back to certain songs from the previous batch. The cycle just repeats itself. Both releases are documents to moments in time I wouldn't ever take back. 

You're cranking material out in so many directions...what was the impetus for Salad Influence, what's the Elsinores connection...being I'm here in L'ville, I get behind on who is what in Lex.

It's funny in that I'm constantly struck with the notion that I don't write or record enough. In reality, I need to chill on that end and get the music I have on the Bandcramp page and release it on a physical format.  While the songs and full lengths I put up digitally are meaningful to me, I still won't feel complete until they hit vinyl or cassette. I'm working on this though. But first, lemme write another song.

Elsinores is Joe's band. He sings and plays drums. Urgent punk spirit. They are one of those bands that put fire in me and serve as a reminder of why I bother to express myself with sound.

What's "STT" refer to?
S.T.T. is alien for SST. 

Is there a tight focus of subject matter for the songs?
Tunnel vision of total freedom gained through following one's true will. Is there anything else to sing about?

On Kill the Crowd with Absence...are you manipulating a toilet flushing?
Not that I know of. The track is a combination of "Marco? Polo!" and the "Telephone" game. Get out yer Googles, kids.

What do you feel like has changed in the years since Warmer Milks til now? For you? For the world?

I take better care of myself spiritually and physically thus I feel healthier, which enables me to work harder. Hopefully, that manifests itself into what I put out into the universe. In terms of how the world has changed, I think some things are fucked, but I also find it easier to accept nowadays that some things are just gonna be fucked. This planet is a speck in the bigger scheme of things and I'm certainly not going to waste away bumming out on it. Too many records to make.
You've seen Lexington's music community circle through several stages of ups and downs. What's happening in it now?

Now is a good time around here. Sidecar is really hitting it's stride with lots of underground weirdo/metal/synth/hardcore/noise/etc. groups and solo artists coming through as well as a handful of locals that are considered "in-house" members (Jovontaes, Mayonnaise, Live Island, Transubstantiation, Wretched Worst, Three Legged Race, Tombstalker, , Tyler and Henry, Blood Pheasant, etc.).  Hole in the wall, no rules environment that every town needs. A lot of youth go there, stand around in their colors and riff, it's cool. They're fresh yet soaking it all in. I didn't have a place like that in Lexington until Club Seal and Charles Mansion popped up, 2004 or so. Noise/outsider shit spilled onto the streets from a completely organic place. That period was my introduction to the powers of organization and dedication. This work ethic got a lot of my friends and myself into ecstatic situations all over the world and to be honest, we did most of the foot work ourselves. I think the sound in the sewers of Lexington is spot on much of the time. It would just be nice to see me and my friends get out of town more with our craft. The Internet has seemed to become some sort of virtual passport yet it can make many a human lazy. A kid in San Francisco "liked" your Soundcloud jam but you didn't make it out to the west coast this year. Things are picking up though. More and more bands are starting to physically get out further with more frequency. James Toth (Wooden Wand) is the one dude in town I know hitting the world as much as he possibly can. Jovo goes out, Tombstalker, Wretched Worst as well. Robert Beatty is busy as a motherfucker with art and Three Legged Race. I'm spacing on others but they exist. Idiot Glee practically lives out of a suitcase. There's a whole slew of musicians that play bars a lot. I work at one and see many a rock band. While I have many friends in that area, I live in the land of "Nerds! Nerds! Nerds!"

Are you going to move to Louisville?
It is a desire but not practical. I have so much invested here in Lexington that at this point it would be a step backwards. This came up on the phone with Mac Finley (Louisville musician and artist) this evening and it just reminded me that I need to visit more frequently. I love Louisville.

I completely agree with you about the Internet making us lazier in the local/regional/whatever independent music world. On the one hand, it's awesome because so much more local music is accessible...If you have a computer and are online, you can record and "release" an album in a day, and hundreds or millions of people can hear it that night. On the other hand, physical releases are dying, and have become almost a novelty art form. But that in and of itself can be a good thing; cassettes are back, reminding me of the Freesound label of the early 2000s in Lexington. People are putting out vinyl and cassettes for no reason than the love of it, because most of us are not making shit on merch at shows anymore.

You've always pursued other endeavors. Art is art. Talk about your visual arts. And your writing.

Last fall I made up a fictitious periodical set in the future called Minimum Jail. I've done a few covers thus far but nothing beyond that.    While i consider myself to be a visual learner and am downright obsessed with pictures, colors, light, darkness, everything i see, i dont think it would be honest of me to identify myself as a  "visual artist". I recently started up one of those portfolio sites to compile my various mediums online for people to see, read, hear, etc. and listed myself as a visual artist and to be frank, im going to delete that because i dont think that is accurate. i think it is a skill, a trade that takes work, not something that just "falls out" of me. sure i have ideas that have transpired in that medium throughout the years but ive never fully married myself to the full blown life of it. What i want out of the process is too detailed and out of my skill set without devoting 10+ hrs a day to be happy with. I went to art school for a couple of semesters but it left me confused and unsatisfied so i dropped out. People find it so easy to label themselves an artist just because they bust out some doodle or are "weird". If you're not putting your everything into it, then you're not an artist. Just be honest and call it a hobby or admit that you feel cool being considered an artist. Fuck craving attention for something you don't even really slave that hard for. For better or worse I always end up focusing all my creative energy into playing music. Drawing at this point is a hobby.  Joe and I do some screen printing stuff but between music and me working and him going to school full time, we haven't made a huge dent yet in the ideas we have. Hopefully this summer we are going to devote more time to our visual pursuits. 

In terms of writing, yeah, I'm a writer. I write poetry. Granted I end up dumping most of it off in the music ghetto but its essentially the written word at some point and its something I work on daily. I mentioned this in an interview several years ago but writing is prayer to me. I dunno, I've been addicted to writing since I was old enough to get it on paper and it keeps me on point with my life. I'd like to get back into writing short stories but I always end up writing songs instead.

I've been doing lots of things to deal with the world over the years. Writing, music, weird attempts at visual scrawling, film, photos, alcohol, drugs, therapy...considering meditation now. Ever tried it?
What's your thoughts? Let's rap.

Writing music alone is my highest form of meditation. It's the one thing that slows everything down so I'm able to channel the marrow of life. It comes off as hokey but I'm sure a lot of what drives me to keep going does. The process of how a song comes together is so internal and dependent on being open to letting go while letting in with my spirit. Drawing for me is fun but I can't "go away" like I can playing guitar. Drugs or drinking can be a blast but for me, it's best to keep my head on straight and hang with coffee and grass. Anything that takes precedence over my girl or my dog isn't a quality way to go.

Crowley said "Man is ignorant of the nature of his own being or his own powers". I grappled with that notion for a long time and finally realized that I just had to accept it. Gratefully I started to see that if I wanted to progress, I needed to clear some space, get unnecessary baggage out of the picture. The days I turn my back on what I consider to be instruments of weakness are the days that I move forward. Obviously nothing is ever perfect or even explainable all the time but that's the point. If the deck is cleared, you're urged inside yourself to work through the muck. Getting in touch with clarity is the essence.

Man, sports kinda drive me nuts. I know people love it but the whole $circus$ vibe makes me sick. Being in Lexington, you can't avoid basketball, it's the most important thing in town or whatever. I dunno. If I stay home or go to Joe or Clint's place I can avoid the spring insanity. Which is exactly what I do. But you gotta walk to Clint's because he lives right by where the UK arena is. Nowhere to park. Ugh. 
Favorite band? Too many. The Black Flag reunions bum me out. Nobody in either camp has anything better to do? "I made a summer playlist. Two Jovontaes songs on it. They're the best. Also jamming Ashra, Wire, Rhyton, Dry Rot, Buzzcocks. The Men put out "New Moon" a couple months back and I love it so much. Salad Influence is playing with them in June. Very excited to hear the new songs live. Also been jamming this band from Northern Virgina called United Mutation. They were around in the early 80's. Brutal hardcore with some far out moments in a headier vein. Right now I'm listening to Soft Machine's "Seven". Weird record.

Haha. Yeah. Sports. I've never been a fan. I've hated the mob mentality of sports fans since grade school. I remember in 8th grade wondering why it was OK to actually stop classes to watch a basketball game. Basketball is nothing but pure entertainment. It made no sense to me that we were allowed to stop class to watch this form of entertainment that I had zero interest in, yet if some concert were to be on TV that I thought was important, we would not be allowed to stop classes for that. This feeling has existed my whole life. It happened a million times in high school. It happens at my cubicle/desk job now. We aren't supposed to stream or watch anything on our computers at work UNLESS it's a UK or UL game during March...then it's alright. Fuck that.

Sports are often considered more important than art, which floors me. I recognize athletic skill, but the importance placed on basketball, football, and baseball is fucking bullshit. And yeah, I have plenty of intelligent friends who are sports fans, but the majority of fans are stupid and assholes. I can give a zillion examples of their stupidity and assholishness. And the mob mentality that is encouraged among college basketball fans in both Lexington and Louisville is scary and ridiculous. Again, you can have a thousand kids come out of a metal concert at Rupp Arena  and get hassled to shit by the cops; a UK game lets out, people trash the entire fucking city, and cops will often let more of it go, shrugging it off as "well, they're just proud of their Cats." I fucking hate it, and it was a contributing factor for me to leave Lexington. Louisville has obsessives here, too, but I've been able to avoid the scenes a little more easily because the city is a bit more spread out.

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