Ewok talk

Pub date August 19, 2009
SectionMusicSectionSonic Reducer


SONIC REDUCER You might not expect it or detect it — listening to the beautifully interwoven fingerpicked guitar, viola, and flute of "Actaeon’s Fall (Against the Hounds)" and dark, sparkling, solemn drone of "Enemies Before the Light" off the new Six Organs of Admittance album, Luminous Night (Drag City) — but Ben Chasny is a pretty fun guy. I haven’t laughed so long and hard during a chat with a musician since forever, that is until the Six Organ-ist began riffing on a recent guilty pleasure: Lindsey Buckingham and in particular Law and Order (Warner Music Group, 1981).

"It’s the one where’s he’s naked, super-tanned, and glistening with oil (on the cover)," enthuses Chasny by phone from Seattle, where he’s trotting out to Trader Joe’s for a single can of black beans. "Man, he’s a fucking mad genius. That was on repeat on my turntable for a while."

After raving about an amazing Fleetwood Mac show he attended not long ago — "after every song [Buckingham] rips his guitar off and holds it up, as if he’s won a gold medal in the Olympics" — he pulls out a nugget related to Buckingham ex Carol Ann Harris’ book, Storms (Chicago Review Press, 2007), which describes the Fleetwood Mac-er holding his head at night, screaming about all the music running through his noggin. "Ethan [Miller of Comets on Fire] said, ‘He probably had that song "Holiday Road" in his head, and it was driving him fucking bonkers,’" Chasny quips. "I can image if you had that going on, you’d go fucking crazy."

I’m still chuckling when Chasny admits that he’s stolen many a lick from Buckingham as the guitarist for the now-dormant Comets on Fire: "I was running them through tons of distortion, so no one picks up." It’s all good — and it’s even better to catch up and talk early influences (the Stray Cats!?) and current musical loves (the Flower Corsano Duo) with the man, now firmly relocated in Seattle along with girlfriend Elisa Ambrogio of Magik Markers, who, as it happens, isn’t in Six Organs at the moment (instead they’re collaborating on another still down-low project). The couple moved out of my Mission District hood just as the shootings were escautf8g last year — and Chasny’s landlord raised his rent. "It was like, ‘Are you fucking reading the newspaper?’," he marvels. "You know how the Mission goes through periods of craziness? I was just, like, ‘Fuck this,’ and we rolled out because it’s cheaper and a little less violent where we are now."

The new Luminous Night seems to reflect Chasny’s peaceful transition to higher, northerly ground. For the first time he worked with a producer, Randall Dunn (Sunn O))), Earth) and in the process has woven new instruments like tabla and synthesizers, as well as viola by Eyvind Kang, into the mix. His own soundtrack writing — and listening to, say, the music of Seven Samurai (1954) and Cosmos (1977) — have imbued Luminous Night‘s sound with vivid emotional arcs and an ever-widening scope that incorporates classical elements, synthesizer ruminations, and wanted-man Western-movie scores.

Nothing to feel guilty about here — but then Chasny would never not cop to an geeky early influence like the so-called "Ewok Song." "I know it by heart," he says, then semi-jokes, "and it’s the precursor to all these kids with wizard hats. It all comes down to the Ewoks singing around the fire. Akron/Family ain’t got nothing on the Ewoks, man." *SIX ORGANS OF ADMITTANCESun/23, 8 p.m., $12Independent628 Divisadero, SFwww.theindependentsf.com



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