Tuesday, 21 April 2015

The Mushroom Project


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I’d reviewed this side-project album from members of the Magic Mushroom Band and Astralasia in a recent issue of Record Collector, and given that can be found on-line (here) then I’ll not double-dip it by reviewing it here as well – particularly as I’ve not been actively posting for a while and have a backlog of stuff that I want to mention – but I did meet up with MMB / Astralasia mainstays Swordfish and Wayne Twinning recently and took the opportunity to ask them about this record which they’d originally conceived as a potential work with former MMB members Garry and Kim.

Swordfish: It started two or three years ago; I did some little loops, Pete [Pracownik] did some rhythm guitars, and Wayne and I put some instrumental ideas together which we were going to throw at Gary and Kim because as an instrumental, Chris [Hillman, of Magick Eye Records] said “it’s not going to sound like the Magic Mushroom Band without having vocals, or a certain section of vocals.” If it was going to come from anyone it should come from me, and we hadn’t spoken in a long time so we sent Garry a message and got in touch, but he felt it all ended in 1995 and that was it as far as he was concerned. We thought about putting it out as the Magic Mushroom Banned but we thought that might be a bit contentious…

Wayne: Good taste prevailed!

Swordfish: And aside from the Mushroom Project, in terms of Astralasia, we’ve almost gone back to that, that basic form where you throw all these things in and hope something comes out of that, rather than here are the chords, this is the song, here’s the chorus, it goes like this… all play along. We’d lost all that jamming, just freaking-out and doing that kind of thing. This album, we wanted to address that and take it back, so even if Gary and Kim had been involved we would still have kept it like that, had more of a free-form element to it.

It’s more space-rock than you’ve been doing recently…

Swordfish: Oh yeah, it’s that grungy riff where you might say it’s got that Hawkwind-ness to it, because it has got that… those two chords… and that’s probably intentional, just to make it rock; we didn’t want to use the machines we’d been using in dance music, we went back to the old school to do it this way and it’s the same with the stuff we’ve done recently for Fruits De Mer. We’ve kind of done all that [dance] and there’s so many kids out there now doing that dance thing it’s like we don’t want to compete in that sort of thing anymore. We were doing it before any of them were there, and the fact that we can do that… but we can still do this and that and we can do this, and they can’t. They just do the same thing. We’ve been back to those trance gigs, back to those places… I mean, they’re good at what they do, but they don’t do anything else. Life and music is so much more exciting than that, isn’t it! So many colours to the palette and so many things you can do. I suppose that’s why we did the Mushroom Project, we thought lets grind a bit and do something a bit rocky. We sent a copy to some people in Italy, and they wanted it to sound like the old Mushroom Band, they wanted vocals and songs on it and said that “it sounds like the boring Ozric Tentacles.” Well, everyone said, “that’s not a bad thing, is it?” Well, no, not really!

You’ve got Simon House playing on it?

Swordfish: That’s just a bit that got left over [from other recordings]. We’ve been trying to get hold of him for ages.

This one is on Talking Elephant, and you did an early days bits and pieces release with them recently as well, Blues Spores

Swordfish: Blue Spores was leftover material, it was a way of getting stuff out because I’m a great believer in using the structure… having things come out properly. If we’re going to do things ourselves, unless we’re going to make a really big effort and do it like a proper package, and with this being old stuff and not a current thing that we’re working on, it seemed better to release it through someone like Talking Elephant. And [label owners] Malcolm and Barry are like a couple of old Hawkwind roadies…

Wayne: More like a couple of Fairport Convention roadies! They’re lovely.

Swordfish: They really are lovely and we’ve done a few things with them over the years. Pete’s done some artwork for them. It just seemed right to put these things out with them.

What can you say about the tracks on Mushroom Project?

Swordfish: The titles, there’s some references there. The first track, ‘Imperial Eye’… they all hark back to festival things, Imperial Eye Band were a festival band…

Wayne: A large reggae band from Slough!

Swordfish: I remembered them; then the second track is ‘Invisible Guitar’, after Rory Cargills’s Invisible Band. ‘Sunkissed’ refers to old members moving to Australia! ‘Clear Blue Sky’ the end track, is, I suppose, what I would have liked to have been the way the Mushroom Band would have gone… this won’t come over right, but I wanted us to become a Fleetwood Mac, not in terms of the music or the songs, but in terms of as a unit, as a band.

Wayne: Not the best example of a band, with the internal politics…

Swordfish: But getting over it and making something that was bigger than anything, because the music is bigger than all that. When you get on that stage, when you’re playing, that is what it’s all about, that moment and what you get back is worth everything, whether it’s fifty people or fifty thousand!

Mushroom Project on Talking Elephant