YOUR ATTENTION PLEASE, HAPPENING SCENE. The largest meeting of like-minded psychedelic types in the city since Pink Floyd headlined the Kaleidoscope Festival at The Stadium in 1968, the LIVERPOOL INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF PSYCHEDELIA lands this September, bringing together a collection of cosmic architects from around the world within the spacious environs of Camp and Furnace. This sartorial soiree is topped by a band who need no introduction to committed psych-heads, as DEAD SKELETONS lead a troika of headliners alongside blues-rock infused six-piece WOLF PEOPLE and the hypnotic motorik grooves of Richard Norris’ project THE TIME & SPACE MACHINE.
The Icelandic-born and Berlin-based Dead Skeletons make their UK debut at the event, having assembled an impressive cult following for their inspiring, mesmeric drone rock. The brainchild of Jón ‘Nonni Dead’ Sæmundu, the band form part of an on-going project by the lead singer, entitled The Dead Concept. Dead Mantra – the band’s best known song, which introduced them to the wider world – revolves around the motif ‘He Who Fears Death Cannot Enjoy Life’ sung in Icelandic, German and English.
The memorable lyric holds huge personal meaning for Sæmundu. Interviewed by The Stool Pigeon in January the singer explained, “When I put it on, it’s like I am going to war, I am beating the virus. It is a spiritual battle song, because I have been HIV positive for almost 20 years. For me there is a whole war, a spiritual, nuclear battle inside me. It is the song I want to hear when I go to meet my maker. It tells me not to give up, and to cure myself. It’s my meditation song, and I love rock n’ roll.”
Diagnosed in 1994, Sæmundu was given three years to live and in his own words “started drinking heavily and taking hard drugs like there was no tomorrow”. As the medication for sufferers of the virus improved, the vocalist quit drinking and channelled all his energies into art. After he “took the decision to live”, a trip to the US where he was exhibiting his work led him to the quotation that underpins all of his output and the core lyric of Dead Mantra. Halfway between ancient and cutting-edge, the eight-minute chant, which sounds unlike almost anything else you’ve ever heard, found its way to the public via MySpace in 2008. Backed with a video of tribal and ceremonial dances across the world the track swiftly became an underground hit.
Featured in the exhibition based around the iconography of The Day of the Dead Festival, the words ‘He Who Fears Death Cannot Enjoy Life’, when translated for the singer, led to something close to an epiphany.
Sæmundu, working with Henrik Bjornsson of Singapore Sling and Ryan Carlson, has created an LP – Dead Magick, the trio’s debut – which has repeatedly sold out its limited vinyl pressings. A hook-up with Anton Newcombe of the Brian Jonestown Massacre led to greater exposure, with the two musicians now sharing the same city as part of the music/arts community based in Berlin.
While resolutely forward-looking, the shamanistic element found in Dead Mantra, Ljosberinn (The Light Bearer), The Kingdom of God and Om Mani Peme Hung (Cycle of the Four Ages) with words taken from the Tibetan Book of the Dead lends the band’s tracks the feeling of tapping into something that existed long before the invention of amplified music: music custom-made for playing to gatherings of the converted and for attracting new followers; the band will doubtless entrance both come 29th September.
THE TIME & SPACE MACHINE led by former Liverpool resident and Beyond the Wizard’s Sleeve/The Grid linchpin Richard Norris bring their acclaimed live show to the Fest’. Known for his excellent DJ sets at now-defunct club The Hangout in the late 1980s, Richard built a formidable reputation for spinning vintage garage and psych classics.
In tandem with his work with ‘Space Machine, Richard is one half of in-demand remixers Beyond the Wizard’s Sleeve, alongside Erol Alkan. On critically applauded recent LP Taste the Lazer, trailed by excellent cut Pill Party in India, TT&SM have been transformed into a fully-fledged live outfit. On-stage the five-piece create huge hypnotic psych jams with swirling Hammond organ, woozy mellotron and phasing backwards guitars all wrapped in cavernous space echo. Mindful that performances at The UFO Club and San Francisco’s Fillmore were famed for their dazzling lightshows, Richard recently informed Bido Lito! that the band will be bringing “a retina-opening box of delights” to the party.
Fellow headliners WOLF PEOPLE, the first UK act to sign to ultra-cool US indie label Jagjaguwar, bring a rawer feel to their groove-led heavy jams, with elements of blues-rock titans Traffic and Cream. Operating in roughly the same patch as Wooden Shjips, the People’s full length debut Steeple, issued in 2010, followed the well-received Tidings, which compiled the band’s singles to date. Their attendant gigs in support of the LP have seen the quartet become a live act to be contended with, sharing stages with The Besnard Lakes and Dinosaur Jr.
In addition to Dead Skeletons, a raft bands will be getting their passports stamped prior to arrival at Camp and Furnace, proof of the Psych Fest’s international credentials. Recent graduates of SXSW and the Austin Psych Fest ANCIENT RIVER bring their grunge/garage/rock n’ roll mash up to these shores direct from Florida.
From even further afield Aussie trio DARK BELLS, who recently relocated to Blighty, will be showing the locals how they mastered drone rock Sydney-style. Slightly closer to home, female-fronted psych/garage pop ensemble THE ALTERED HOURS make the journey across the Irish Sea for one of their first gigs in the UK. Hot off the press, current UK buzz band of the moment and Rough Trade signings PALMA VIOLETS will be returning to the city at Psych Fest, following on from their scintillating double header with Savages last month.
Local big-hitters include Echo & the Bunnymen legend WILL SERGEANT, doom drone lords MUGSTAR, DJ outings from both CLINC and THE CORAL and classic pop-psych tunes from recent Bido Lito! cover star EDGAR SUMMERTYME. At the tougher end of the spectrum Leeds’ six-piece HOOKWORMS and superlative Liverpudlian trio THE WILD EYES can be found. Meanwhile, juxtaposing psych and indie pop, MILK MAID, who released superb second album Mostly No in June, also feature. Check the festival’s blog for the full menu.
A banquet of bespoke bands then, at the debut outing of Merseyside’s very own 14 Hour Technicolor Dream.