For anyone who might celebrate around this time last week as a high holiday, or might even know why someone would do so, meet Phased. They’re a Swiss trio who’ve been exploring the outer reaches of stoner space for nearly a decade, fueled by riffs and expansive jams that suck you in like someone left the airlock open. Their latest offering, A Sort Of Spasmic Phlegm Induced By Leaden Fumes Of Pleasure (Elektrohasch), could easily be called a riffgasm.
They’re veterans of such established European festivals as Dawn Of Doom and Stoned From The Underground, and though their memorable blend of catchy hooks and heavy jamming has yet to really see Stateside exposure, their approach is bound to win them many friends in the U.S. heavy rock scene. Hence “meet Phased.”
Guitarist/vocalist Chris Sigdell and drummer Marko Lehtinen took part in the following email Q&A—the band is rounded out by bassist Chris Walt—and discussed the band’s past and present (little bit of the future too), and just what qualifies as a “leaden fume of pleasure.”
What were the band’s goals going into this record? Was there something different you wanted to try coming off Medications?
Not consciously, no. We just went along with whatever we do. Maybe in regard of the jamming—that’s one thing we definitely wanted to incorporate more because it’s an integral part of Phased. Also, maybe the thought of not doing any up-tempo songs was there. We wanted the album to ‘breathe’ and not hurry along the highway of space-rock. Other than that, we had a fair share of new material and with the return of Chris Walt on bass, the timing seemed perfect.
One of the most striking things about the album is the blending of catchy songs and psychedelics. How aware of you of structure in the songwriting process? Do you intentionally leave room for jams and explorations?
Well, often when we make up new songs, we jam around on various parts of a song, but mostly when we have reached a point where the song is finished, there is no more room for that. All of a sudden it has a set structure from beginning to end.
So this time we wanted to change that. With ‘Rim Shot To Infinity,’ for instance, we have one huge jam and nothing else. It was recorded in one take and we added only minuscule overdubs so it would become this piece of very tranquil kraut-rock. ‘The Need’ is another song that evolved out of a jam. Originally, it was only a part of another song that we left out. Now it stands on its own.
Do you consider yourselves a stoner rock band?
What is a stoner band? I think this term is overused and also it does not really accurately describe the music of Phased. We are no stereotype stoner band. We are no classic doom band. We are no typical space-rock band either. I don’t know what we are really. For us, we don’t think in terms of genres—we just do what we want to do, and what we feel is right. It just so happens to be slow and drawn out music with spacey effects and grumbling voices on top. Of course, we are influenced by Hawkwind, St. Vitus and Electric Wizard, but we are likewise influenced by The Stooges, Black Flag and Flipper, or John Coltrane and Sun Ra. There is such a broad musical spectrum we listen to individually, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what makes Phased tick.
Tell me about the recording process. How much of the album was written out beforehand? Was there much experimenting happening in the studio?
Almost all songs were written and arranged before we went into the studio. We just left some things open in order to see what might happen. But when you have only a minimal budget to work with, you can’t afford to spend much time on experimenting. It’s definitely something we’d like to delve deeper into.
As always, when you’re in the studio, there are unexpected things happening, and it only takes little to see you in the need to hurry up and finish the session. There is always something that needs to be redone. There is always that one day where you feel uninspired and tired—and it is hard to get in the right mood when you know you just have to! And it doesn’t help when the producer insists on starting early. We get in the mood by evening and so it can be very frustrating to be made to rock at 10 o’clock!
What’s the meaning behind the album title? What are Leaden Fumes of Pleasure?
It’s just what it is—a sort of spasmic phlegm induced by leaden fumes of pleasure. Like heavy fumes steaming from the amps and turning into sounds of orgasm. There’s no pleasure like standing in front of a speaker that’s blasting with riffs. It’s intense.
Plus we wanted to make a bit fun of it. Also, we had used a one-word title on the last album (Medications, which was a pun on Coltrane’s Meditations) and so we came up with this idea of using an enormous long and pompous title. But as always with Phased, it just so happens to be an accurate description of the content as well.
This line-up has been together almost 10 years. How are things different now than they were when you were just starting out? How have the relationships between the band members changed?
This is the most coherent line-up and we’ve become a very close-knit unit. Sometimes we no longer even need to look at each other when we’re playing—we feel things and groove on one sole vibe! When the band started, it was all about finding a musical identity and getting to know each other. There were a lot of changes in the lineup, but when we reduced ourselves to a trio, that’s when we started to develop what we have become now. With the three of us, we’ve definitely also become close friends, almost like brothers somehow. So that is cool, especially when you’re stuck in a van for several hours. We have a lot more common than just the love for music.
How do you think the sound of band has developed over the course of the four albums? Do you have definite ideas of where you want to go creatively, or do songs just happen through jamming out riffs?
At the moment we are toying around with various ideas, trying out different approaches to our sound. We have no idea where it’s going to take us, but wherever that will be, it will be fine with us.
It seems that over the last three albums we have reached a point where we feel we have perfected that blend of doom, stoner and space-rock and now we want to go further somehow. So we’ve been jamming a lot to see what that might be. It doesn’t necessarily mean a next album would be totally and radically different. Phased is Phased and we’ll always be slow and heavy, but maybe we’ll find some funny new aspect to incorporate into our sound.
Phased doesn’t sound like a band that’s been around for more than a decade. What keeps it fresh for you guys?
The fact that we haven’t played this to death, maybe? Also, we are a very slow band—so we’re kind of still able to develop where others would have outlived their creativity.
You’re doing a couple gigs this month with Los Natas. Any plans for summer and beyond?
We’re looking forward to those gigs, but now we’re looking beyond and hope to tour in Germany this autumn. We’re also always looking for the odd support slot to some great band. We don’t mind driving 500 km for one gig, as long as it’s fun and people are excited to have us.
Any other closing words?
Visit Switzerland, and drink some water.
JJ Koczan always tries to stay hydrated. theobelisk.net.