Enough reason to ask each band member about the record that has influenced them the most as a musician.
Harvey Milk – My Love Is Higher Than Your Assessment of What My Love Could Be
This record. Synth arpeggios, a painfully dragged cello and a clean discordant bass start the album off, first track, ‘A Small Turn Of Human Kindness’ (later to become the title for their latter album release in 2010).
It kicks in, constant movement, playful, daft, haunting, fucking delicious. Heavy ‘doom’ to ¾ time play, to masterful percussive spacious wonderment, background noise, silence. (I could be lazy and say – “like The Melvins”, but there are enough music journalists who’ve got that copied and pasted for music that requires more thought.)
Where am I? This is Harvey Milk.
The fundamental play between the drum, groove and guitars, pained vocals, I hear so many eclectic influences in it, it’s tongue in cheek, funny and deadly serious – you cunts. It may feel disjointed for many, and to others may think it lacks the necessary ‘riff-worship’ circle jerk pseudo Sabbath shit that ever flows from the cesspool of unoriginality of todays ‘modern music’. That’s because it is clever without trying to be.
Who the hell has the tenacity to bring in Gustav Holst – Planets (Jupiter, The bringer of Jollity) into the bridge section of a melodic emotional heavy rock ballad, and write lyrics to it! ‘My Love Is Like An Anvil’ shows Harvey Milk re-purpose and re-mould in a far greater way than the modern hailed gentry post-production thieves such as Mark Ronson. (Watch them play this song live!) This music is real.
Calm – and through the calm pastures of melodic guitar play is sections of uncertainty and caress, before the crashing emphasis of being fucked over yet again come in necessarily. It’s kept sparse, where they see fit, it’s awe encompassing when not – yes a fucking sledge hammer hitting a pipe. I know you’ve just had a hard shift at the rock pub and want to listen to Pink Floyd on repeat as it reminds you of the smell of daddy’s denim cutoffs, but just get through to the closing track ‘All the Live Long Day and fuck the rest’ off. If it isn’t such well written accomplished piece of music well then it’s a mess, but it is one of the best and most enthralling albums I could revisit over again.
Mahavishnu Orchestra – The Inner Mounting Flame
I remember going into a record store when I was younger with my mother – she was after a ‘bonkers instrumental’ record she used to listen to when she was younger. We ended up walking away with Mahavishnu’s 2nd album, Birds of Fire, which wasn’t what she was after, but was something I ended up playing to death in my early teens.
It was only later when I started getting into Miles Davis, specifically his late sixties and early seventies records, that my interest in John McLaughlin was reignited. I got my hands on The Inner Mounting Flame and that was that. The opening chord is a DbMajor#9 (I don’t know what that means either), but safe to say it is the most unsettling, smash in the face piece of dissonance to ever have started a record. I knew it was going to be the beginning of something special. Johnny Mac has his Les Paul going straight into a Marshall amplifier set to melt down, and the whole band puts on the most disgustingly blistering performance of genre melding I had heard and have ever heard since.
It is not so much the virtuosity of the musicianship here that has influenced us, it is more the forward thinking nature of the album – take risks, play your bollocks off and bring everything you can to the pot. Ultimately, if Miles Davis tells your white British ass to start a band, you’d better make sure it’s one of the best bands that ever was.
Melvins – Hostile Ambient Takeover
I was around 14 when a school friend handed me his copy of Hostile Ambient Takeover by the Melvins, and very rapidly down the rabbit hole I went… Initially I remember being very confused and disorientated by what I was hearing, and the album sparked so many questions about both itself and music as I understood it at the time, tipping my world of heavy metal upside down.
What the hell was this? Why and how does the music sound like this? What is that drum solo opening track about? Why are they doing this? Is this stuff even possible in music? It blew my mind.
It was the most surreal yet brutally heavy album I had ever heard.
From a production perspective it’s an infinitely fascinating album, as a lot of Melvins records are. The sound of the drums in particular I found very interesting, the natural-ness of them, and the way you could hear the shape of the room where they were recorded. It felt very organic and real, more like my Dad’s Led Zeppelin or Santana albums than any of the heavily-processed metal I was listening to at the time. But this was a new album! Dale Crover’s strange fills and odd hi-hat use really got under my skin straight away. It felt completely personal to him, a style which was pounding, unrepentant and brutally effective, yet weirdly stylish at the same time. As a young drummer I was completely hooked. Then came the riffs- glorious passages of heavy, slobbering dirge with ‘The Fool, The Meddling Idiot’, the jerky odd-meter pulverizing of ‘Black Stooges’, the acid-fried country hoe-down of ‘Dr. Geek’, and throughout these completely surreal passages of noise, cheesy keyboard patches mixed with field recordings and horribly deranged vocals. The cover art was the complete anthithesis of what I was used to- red cartoon horses in a pink field with a white road leading nowhere, and the cover was……back to front?!? Sliced cantaloupe on a train-carriage bed of ice anyone? Primary colours and downtuned filth……..
Hostile Ambient Takeover is rarely discussed when people talk about their favourite Melvins albums, and it isn’t lumped in with the “classics”- it’s almost ignored. Unloved. But for me it changed my whole perception of what music could be, and it led the way into exploring their discography and that of Ipecac, and really a jumping off point into a world of sound I never knew could exist, a world I’m still obsessed with and exploring to this day.