Thursday, August 25, 2011
Kris Thompson Interview
High time here on DSK blog for a profile, and a most awesome interview, with someone who practically defines the underground psychedelic music scene, now, and seemingly, for always! In the recent past, I discovered the music of a now-defunct band called The Prefab Messiahs, and had the utmost pleasure of getting to know one of the men behind that band, and behind many other musical projects over the years, Mr. Kris Thompson. Those of you reading this who already know Kris, aren't you the lucky ones! I have checked out at least most of his projects over the past few months, and everything I have heard that he's worked on, has been some truly amazing work. To dedicate your life to making such music, music with substance and style, means you are bound to find listeners who are going to appreciate your art and your love with you, follow you and your work, and show you some *love* back. For myself, I only this year discovered Kris Thompson's immense and amazing body of work, but better late than never, and to catch up with him, and to make sure readers here who don't know him yet find out about him, I asked him some questions that he went above and beyond to kindly answer for me, and here they are, so enjoy the trip with Kris!
How did you first get involved with music, at what age & what was your first instrument?
I wasn't really drawn much to music until high school. There was a summer camp I went to on an island off of New Hampshire, and there was a lot of singing (folk/pop/rock) and we got to crank up rock albums on the stereo in the rec hall. So I caught the music bug there, and at home afterward I got a cheap acoustic guitar and started fiddling about on it. When some friends wanted to start jamming on electric instruments, though, I was the least experienced in guitar and so was "relegated" to the bass, haha.
You've worked with so many people and been in so many bands/projects over the years, but all of them were of a psychedelic nature, true?
Psychedelia can be a hard essence to pin down, but sure, you could say that there's at least a thread of it running through most of the bands and projects. The Prefab Messiahs (1981-83) were a Dada-influenced post-punk/garage/psych-pop unit. The Lost Demension (1983-85) was an experimental space/noise bedroom project. Jasmine Love Bomb (1986-89) was a loud-ish psych-rock affair. Nisi Period (1989-95) was a dark spacey post-punk band with 2-3 drummers. Cloud Furnace (1996-97) was a gloomy/spacey synth-punk project that did some unreleased recordings produced by Roger Miller (Mission of Burma). Abunai! (1996-2002) was a psych-rock/spacerock band with a hint of 60s UK folk-rock. The Lothars (1996-2009) were an experimental space/drone group with 2-4 theremins plus other instruments. Concord Ballet Orchestra Players (2005-present) are a Krautrock-ish avant-psych collective. Sometimes I play theremin in "avant-chill kosmische" sets with ambient guitarist Rob Byrd, and experimental cellist Wisteriax (Karen Langlie) joins in on that occasionally. Rob and I recently released a CD under the name Byrd/Thompson.
There have been lots of live and studio collaborations too, which keeps things really fun. It's cool to be able to spin out sounds with a wide variety of folks. The list looks crazy when I start pulling it together: Prince Rama, Bobb Trimble, Gary War, Damo Suzuki, Tanakh/Kawabata Makoto, Brother JT, Sore Eros, Nick Salomon (The Bevis Frond), Windy & Carl, High Llamas, Alastair Galbraith, The Spacious Mind, Quilt, Awesome Color, 28 Degrees Taurus, Many Mansions, Lauri des Marais, Crank Sturgeon, Mind Yeti...
Bobb Trimble made some incredible (and now very collectible) solo dreamy psych LPs in the early 80s; I made some low-key contributions to the 2nd one (Harvest of Dreams) and helped start his latest band (Bobb Trimble's Flying Spiders) in 2008. I helped him get those first two albums reissued in 2007, and his "lost 3rd album" from 1984 just came out earlier this summer on Yoga Records.
Were you always based in Boston? Is that your hometown for a long time now? From what I know, there is a thriving independent music scene there, but maybe you can give me your thoughts on that?
I grew up in Georgetown, a small town about 30 miles north of Boston. I did some music while at college in Worcester MA and Lowell MA, and then moved to the Boston area in 1991. Yeah, there's a lot of cool independent activity here. It tends to be pretty spread out and segmented, though, but I'm not sure if it's that much more so than most places.
Can you name some of your most fave songs you have made with your bands? Name some fave performances?
Fave songs...that's tough, but here are a couple each from some of the bands:
Abunai! - "Dreaming of Light", "Rolling of the Stones"
Concord Ballet Orchestra Players - "May 29, 1913 (reprise)","I Roamed Under It As a Tired Nude Maori"
Jasmine Love Bomb - "Empire Sun", "That River"
The Lothars - "Banjolin", "The Trot"
Nisi Period - "Echo of Suggestion", "Unless"
The Prefab Messiahs - "Beyond All That", "The 16th Track"
As far as performances, I'll never forget playing theremin with Damo Suzuki in early 2003 (you can hear me, but not see me in this vid). That was a Knitting Factory show in NYC. Damo had put out the word that he was looking for "sound carriers" (live collaborators) in each city that he visited. On my night, the carriers also included Gary Lucas (from Beefheart's Magic Band) and several guys from Parts and Labor.
It was also really cool playing with The Spacious Mind (Swedish space rock band) at Terrastock 6 (2006), and a couple of times with Windy & Carl -- once at Terrastock 4 in '00, and at a bookstore near Boston on '01.
Bobb Trimble's first-ever NYC show in June '09 was a great time. It was sponsored by Rotter & Friends, Viva-Radio, and Mexican Summer -- and they all went out of their way to make it a special thing for us. We did a live WFMU session during that visit too. Bobb had just gotten out of the hospital with pneumonia, so we were flying pretty seat-of-the-pants there -- but it all went pretty well.
What are you working on with your current band and also with Bobb Trimble?
Concord Ballet Orchestra Players had a double-cassette out earlier this year on L'Animaux Tryst. They'll be issuing an LP from us this coming winter too. Rob Byrd and Wisteriax and I have started recording a series of live shows, and at some point we'll use those as a basis for a full release.
With Bobb Trimble('s Flying Spiders) we've been doing some shows in support of his album The Crippled Dog Band. We've also started learning some vintage songs of his that never got released, and we'll be recording some of those. The New York show we played in 2009 was recorded multitrack and came out quite well, so we might mix that and do something with it too.
Well, mainly to keep finding myself in interesting situations, and to document and share them when it makes sense to. That's all I can really ask for. I'll probably do some recording-for-fun with Gary War this fall -- and new live/studio collaboration situations are always popping up.
Speaking of Gary, his label (with Taylor Richardson) Fixed Identity is going to be putting out an 8-song 45rpm 12" of archival stuff from The Prefab Messiahs this fall. It'll be called Peace Love & Alienation, which was a little catch-phrase of ours back then. It's going to be a really nice thing, with a screen-printed "zine" insert with posters, art, writings, etc.
Kris, thank you so much for taking the time to do this amazing interview. The body of work you lay claim to, is absolutely mind-blowing. There is so much to be awed by here, and so much to be proud of. For those of us who explore your music, our lives are all the more richer and wonderful for taking the trips with you.
Further links to explore with Kris Thompson:
AllRovi (formerly AMG AllMusic) discography
Trip Inside This House 10 Questions feature with Kris