The Cosmic Dead is one of the UK's best known psychedelic space rock bands at the moment. The four piece from Glasgow has been producing release after release and touring extensively, including a great show at the Roadburn festival. Richard Collins caught up with drummer Julian Dicken.
(((o))): How the hell did you guys meet?
Julian: A young conservative party rally. One of us had a naughty 'jazz cigarette', so we snuck round the back of the bike shed and smoked it. We then headed over to James' house and listened to a Hawkwind record for the first time. The doors of perception were further widened. Immediately we realized our lives had been a lie, abandoned our right wing allegiances and became radical leftist hippies,
living in a hot air balloon moored atop Ben Nevis for a year or so. It was during that time that we discovered the divine meaning of existence, and decided to form a band, spreading the message through secret audio code that only the subconscious mind can decipher.
(((o))): What made you decide you wanted to play mind bending psychedelic music?
Julian: A general boredom with modern culture. The internet age, the age of diminished attention spans, instant gratification and desire for fragmentary and ephemeral brain candy. The age that robs everything of meaning and context, and processes you, me, and our lives as nothing more than mere data. The desire for mantra and repetition and all the things that help inspire meditative states of mind, comes from a desire to remind people that they're human beings, and that they deserve to feel alive, and should perhaps take a look at the world around them a bit more intensely.
(((o))): Your music can be anywhere between a mad cosmic voyage to an ambient experimental endurance test. Where do these songs come from?
Julian: The songs come from whatever mood we happen to be in that day. Or whatever external or environmental influences have been at play with us in the run up to us coming together to make that particular piece of music. I think we're becoming more absorbent in that way, and that's a really good thing, being an artistic earthworm and all that shit. All pure art comes about in that way I think. Though obviously it’s easier to observe in artists who create individualistically. The artist processes the world around them, and somehow needs to make thought and emotion into tangible, psychical or audible things. In order to maybe better understand their world, make sense of it all maybe. You can see that in the prehistoric cave paintings. I also like those artists that poo in buckets and pour it over themselves. They're a hoot.
(((o))): Releases seem to come thick and fast from you chaps which is amazing, do you find the writing and recording process relatively easy?
Julian: It usually flows very naturally. We mostly just jam things out, record it, and then pick out the best bits later, maybe add a little bit of overdubbing, and then put together an album! It's the way we've always worked, though I'd like to see us experiment with more varied and different techniques in the future though. Maybe we can all spend a week in a floatation tank, and then see what kind of music flows out of us. Or maybe we'll make an album comprised of nothing but our pitch and speed altered flatulence. There's something wonderfully pure and human about that I think. Yes. Hmmmmmm.
(((o))): Glasgow seems to have quite a heritage of boundary pushing underground bands. Why do you think that is?
Julian: Buckfast. Buckfast and Irn Bru. Oh and deep-fried cheeseburgers. It’s all brain fuel that stuff y'know. We recently did a whole bunch of recording in a cottage in Lochalsh in the north of Scotland a couple of weeks ago there. All we consumed for sustenance was Buckfast and crisps. We pushed at least 18 or 19 boundaries out to Iceland, North Pole and Newfoundland at least. Maybe if I mention Buckfast one more time they'll sponsor us. Buckfast.
(((o))): You have a split coming up with Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, how do you know those chaps? How did the split come about?
Julian: We played with them in Preston earlier in the year, and they blew our heads off with their spasmodic psych rock ridiculousness. They got about half way through their one song set, and the drummer put his kick pedal right through the bass drum skin. With that, we were in love. The feeling was instantly reciprocated, and they proposed to us on one knee later that evening, a slab of vinyl sealing the deal, a ring of unity and red-hot sexual chemistry. The marriage has been fruitful and blissful so far. We might have a few kids next year if the weather looks up. Though I made sure we get the house and the 4x4 in the pre-nup. You've always gotta cover your arse in this world.
(((o))): You guys played Roadburn this year, which is obviously a massive deal. How was the gig itself?
Julian: The gig itself was crazy. Probably one of the craziest gigs we've ever played in terms of the reception from the audience and sheer number of people there. I almost missed our own show. I ventured out into Tilburg city center to try and find a shop so I could buy cigarette papers. I must've wondered about for at least 40 minutes, and found zilch, zero, nada. There are no shops in Tilburg! Just bars and clubs, nothing else! I did stumble across a really cool scooter gang of 15 year olds though. Anyway, I wondered back to the venue and found a couple of guys from Manchester, so borrowed a bunch of papers off them, and had a good old chinwag with them. After telling them I was playing in a bit, I looked at my watch and realised we were due on in about 10 minutes. After panicking and vomiting with nerves over some unfortunate locals, I sprinted over to the venue, finding Omar along the way (which was very lucky as I no fucking idea where I was going!) and we made our way to the stage we were playing on. Walking in the door, it was completely rammed and I was convinced we were in the wrong room, but alas, there was our Jamesey and Lewish up on the stage in the distance, setting up! Now, this stage doesn't have a back entrance, so we had to maneuver our way through the audience for about 5 minutes, in order to make our way to the stage. I literally had to shove a few folk out the way who refused to budge, screaming at them that they wouldn't even be able to watch the fucking band they're stood waiting to see unless they moved out my way and let me get on stage! I don't actually really remember much about the gig itself, other than the sweat dripping off the walls cause the place was so rammed and hot as all living hell. Oh and the crowd being nuts and dancing and moving about a lot. Not something we're used to! Oh and Dutch stoner guys, screaming out "COSMIC DEID!" in their best faux Scottish accents. That'll stick with me for a long time. Ha ha.
(((o))): Who is the best band you have ever shared the stage with?
Julian: That's a tough one as we've been lucky enough to play with quite a lot of great bands. I'd say playing with a band from Chicago called Cave back in the early days of the band was a real revelation though. They're incredible live, and their drummer especially blew my mind. The man is a total machine. They just really bring things up to extremes, then bring it back down again, and I remember finding their masterful control of those dynamics really inspiring, especially as back then we were much more of a kind of "Right, lets be loud as hell for the whole set!" kind of band. More recently though, we shared the stage with Bo Ningen at Doune The Rabbit Hole festival and they tore that festival a new one. Mental. I thought Acid Mothers Temple were mental live, but these guys make AMT look like Blur.
(((o))): Name 3 bands which the Cosmic Dead think fucking rock...
Julian: Bush - Because who doesn't love Bush? I ask of you. Michael Bolton - More riveting and heartbreaking ballads than you can shake a Michael Bolton endorsed dildo at. Hoobastank - A band that were really a milestone listening experience for us. Their criminally under-appreciated second album, Hoobastank Coming Back Atcha, was one of the things that really drew the 4 of us together as musicians and informs everything we've ever done creatively and artistically.
(((o))): You guys seem to have a level of interest state side, is there a chance of you touring there any time soon?
Julian: I really hope so! At the moment though, it’s looking very unrealistic, as it’s just too damn expensive to get visas! The way it's set up right now, makes for a really crappy and unfair deal for small and independent bands, so unless they change their laws, or we can do some major fundraising, we aren't gonna be able to legitimately tour Americaland anytime soon unfortunately. Either way, I think its something we wanna try and maybe aim for in 2014. Failing that, maybe Japan! Stay tuned!
(((o))): If The Cosmic Dead was an animal, what would it be?
Julian: One of those little fish that swims inside your willy if you try and have a wee in a river.
(((o))): What's next for The Cosmic Dead?
Julian: A dry martini please.