Selected Discography
ARTIST: Secret Chiefs 3
: Eyes Of Flesh, Eyes Of Flame (Live)
LABEL: Mimicry Records
RELEASED: May 8, 2000
: 9 Tracks
ARTIST: Secret Chiefs 3
: First Grand Constitution And Bylaws (Reissue)
LABEL: Mimicry Records
RELEASED: August 1, 2000
: 52:41 - 25 Tracks

SAMPLE: "Zulfikar" 1:15
ARTIST: Secret Chiefs 3
: Second Grand Constitution And Bylaws (Reissue)
LABEL: Mimicry Records
RELEASED: August 1, 2000
: 54:39 - 11 Tracks
ARTIST: Secret Chiefs 3
: Book M
LABEL: Mimicry Records
RELEASED: September 10, 2001
: 54:44 - 13 Tracks
ARTIST: Secret Chiefs 3
: Book Of Horizons
LABEL: Mimicry Records
RELEASED: May 25, 2004
: 14 Tracks
Exclusive Interview (1)

Ken Eakins from Spill Online interviewed Trey Spruance during 2004. This Interview was originally printed in "I Hate YOU!" Magazine. Minor editorial alterations were made by Justin Sanvicens on June 5, 2005.

Ken Eakins: When asked I always find it really hard to describe the sound of the Secret Chiefs 3, what do you tell people when they ask you?

Trey Spruance: Boy that just seems to get harder and harder all the time. Wait until you hear the new one!!! Something pretentious sounding like "a journey deep into the unfamiliar by way of the familiar" is accurate, but only in hindsight, right? How can you tell someone whose never heard the music something like that and expect them to even WANT to listen to it? I have no idea what to tell people... as an artist, I think that's a great achievement. But I'm also the record label, and trying to "promote a band" that is, in all seriousness, an endlessly proliferating and insoluble riddle that no ordinary person can be expected to wrap their brains around in one lifetime, much less their ears, isn't exactly... well, even possible. The fact that the music itself probably demands a somewhat tweeked or I dare say "expanded" view of the sonic universe is, again, a blessing artistically, and a complete disater socio-economically. Well at least now that everything is headed for that same disaster I won't need to complain about that anymore!

Ken Eakins: Your label Mimicry Records are releasing the latest offering from the Secret Chiefs 3, "The Book Of Truth" in late-February early-March, what can we expect from this latest opus... I hear it is the first part of a trilogy?

Trey Spruance: Actually May. Yeah, it's the first in a three part monstrosity. It took a long time to lay the foundation for all three, but now that's done, so we're plugging in the "album" part of the process now. In reality it's one huge, meta-compostion. Not in a Pink Floyd "The Wall" sense of a concept album, so much as an interrelated set of themes set upon a geometric foundation that processes the thematic variants, and distrubutes them around various bands. It's like a symphony with seven movements, only the movements are not arranged according to linear time. Rather, they are "bands", and arranged according to specific formulae stemming from certain "mystical" or "occult" tradition. Each "band", in turn is a conduit for the musical information, as well as being a mimic organization that sheds it's own particular shade of conceptual/philosophical light upon the Philisophical Foundations upon which the the whole piece is based.

Ken Eakins: Who is actually in the Secret Chiefs 3, the last time I checked there were about nine members?

Trey Spruance: The revolving door of the Secret Chiefs 3 now holds about twenty people, all of which are organized into the above-mentioned temporary ensembles at various times. We will be taking some of these out seperately as "bands", but right now we're working on getting the recordings done.

Ken Eakins: Is there a religious aspect to the Secret Chiefs 3, is it part of the narrative to the albums?

Trey Spruance: Insofar as the word "religious" is taken in it's literal sense, as a re-ligio, a "re-linking" of the supernal, suprasensory reality with the comatose, zombified state we all find ourselves in, yes. We are absolutely advocates for the lost, discredited, shit-upon and wholly dead concept of Truth, which by definition makes us "religious", or at least "religiously oriented" in some sense. The question then becomes, in what WAY is this whole thing "religious"? We have plenty if not more venom for the so-called representatives of "faith" in the modern world as any smarmy, agnostic bozo has... or WILL EVER HAVE with all that proto-communist "humanism" or proto-capitalistic, pseudo-darwinistic, scientfic-fetishist bullshit weighing him down. On the other hand, we're ready to intellectually castrate modern "man" and all his flimsy, bleak self-conceptions, and kick him in the place where his balls once were so fucking hard that he grows some real ones back in their place... It's hardly the picture many people have of the "religious" outlook... And that's the whole problem, really.

Ken Eakins: Will there be a new instalment of the ever evolving "Zulfikar" tune on the new album, or did that reach its climax in "Book M"?

Trey Spruance: No Zulfikar this time. We're saving it for the "Return".

Ken Eakins: When are the Secret Chiefs 3 coming to Europe, I still haven't seen you guys live?

Trey Spruance: That has simply GOT to happen. Secret Chiefs 3 will be touring as a full assortment of these ensembles in support of the second CD in this trilogy, due in Fall 2004. We hope by then to have generated enough momentum to launch at least one or two of these bands over the Atlantic by then. I simply do not see how that couldn't finally happen.

Ken Eakins: Rumours have been leaking onto the internet from the Coalinga Youth Hospice that you may be involved (instrumentally) with a band called Faxed Head, what is happening with those guys and can their already swollen brains handle the recording of another album in the Taco Bell?

Trey Spruance: Yeah, those guys are pretty great. I'd like to see where they're going to take it next - I heard maybe they were going to go to Florida during the 2004 elections to try and get all the aging death metallers from around that area out to the polls... that could've swung it last time - there have to be one-hundred and twenty bands from Tampa alone. I'm not sure if the Faxed Head boys are aware that Gore won't be running this time, because they said they were going to try and get "Gore and Guts" worked in as the democratic Convention anthem. You have to give it to those guys for their precognitive abilities, though, huh? That song was written in 1998 after all.

Ken Eakins: In a recent interview, Mike Patton said that he thought Mr. Bungle's days may be numbered which sent the Internet rumour mill into overdrive... what is actually happening?

Trey Spruance: Nothing. I called him and left a message a while ago. He did the same and told me he was leaving for a tour. I'll try again later.

Ken Eakins: Do you still keep in contact with the other members of Bungle?

Trey Spruance: The ones who live in Australia, yes. That would be Danny Heifetz (who's all over the new Secret Chiefs 3) and Bär McKinnon. Trevor Dunn seems to be really busy and doing well. I'm hoping I'll see him at South By Southwest - I heard I might.

Ken Eakins: How do the recording and writing processes differ between Secret Chiefs 3 and Mr. Bungle? I heard that California was recorded in analogue on twenty-five tape machines...

Trey Spruance: Actually three tape machines, but twenty-four track machines.. the last big analogue production, probably. We'll, I'll never do THAT again! Yeah, I guess I probably put too much work into that... but now here I am doing the same thing (putting too much work into the Secret Chiefs 3). Perhaps that's what they have in common, the recording process. Me being an obsessive nut about all the details. In Mr. Bungle, Patton has a similar brand of obsessiveness - his is just more quick result-oriented, which is why we've always worked well together. The songwriting in Mr. Bungle is a shared duty, and breaks down into pretty much thirds between Mike, Trevor and I, with Bär throwing in parts, and all of us collaboritively engaging at times in arrangements. Those are the "What's", and I definately am the technical maniac, so I get stuck with all the "How's", like "How the fuck are we going to actually do this?" That's fun for me. In the Secret Chiefs 3 it's not too much different, technically - you can see that in the absence of other songwriters that I still like working on other people's music in addition to my own... what do we have, about four cover songs per CD? But what I write for Secret Chiefs 3 and what goes over to Mr. Bungle have always been very different, with Mr. Bungle taking the priority. I guess that's changing now, huh? Yeah, well, if Mr. Bungle does anything again, that's how it will still be.

Ken Eakins: You've said in previous interviews that Warner Brothers basically didn't bother promoting any of the Mr. Bungle records and pretty much let you release what you wanted, was this a pain in the ass or a blessing in disguise?

Trey Spruance: The only reason it was a pain in the ass is that because they spent $0 on us, we kept making them money! So they wouldn't fucking DROP us! Fuck! They were dropping Mudhoney and bigger name stuff around us left and right, but they fucking KEPT us - THREE TIMES IN A ROW! Trust me, at our rate of 12% of wholesale and them taking all their expenses out of that same 12%, while they sit back and make a profit, I mean... do the math. Maybe if you're some schmuck band that just wants to think you're "famous" because you're on a major label that will work for you. Half of this was shitty management, of course. There are plenty of semi-interesting options that are available to you when you're on a major that if you grab them and don't let anyone talk you into this or that way of doing things could be useful - but we ignored all that. Still, all told, we could've been doing A LOT better somewhere, ANYWHERE else.

Ken Eakins: You have recently added Sleepytime Gorilla Museum to the Mimicry Records roster, when can we expect a release?

Trey Spruance: Late summer...

Ken Eakins: What are your plans for future musical projects, do you plan to make any more music with John Zorn or Mike Patton?

Trey Spruance: I'm done with thrown together "skronk" forever, but by no means is that all John Zorn is capable of. Far from it. So if he asked me to be in something substantial, I would throw down in a second. I know what the man is capable of, and pretty much respect him like an "Elder", if a distant one. It's just that I'm no longer able to jack off onstage with a bunch of excitable jazzbos or rock/noise people who think they are getting a big career or "legitimacy" boost by being associated with him. It's perfectly natural that I wouldn't be involved in any of his better stuff, because I'm simply not good enough at playing an instrument for that. I'm more a compositional/production type, and he's already got that covered, so there you go. Go Zorn. I sincerely wish him the best. As far as Patton, who knows? At this point I think he hates me, and I heard he thinks I hate him. Since I don't hate him, maybe he doesn't hate me, who knows? Might take awhile to figure this one out...

Ken Eakins: You moved away from San Francisco and into a log cabin in the Californian mountains, was this to create a musical microcosm, or an adverse reaction to the hustle and bustle of the city life?

Trey Spruance: Ha! Both! Actually it's not the hustle and bustle that bugs me. I like that, actually. It's the fucking dotcom pricks and all the new money that destroyed San Francisco that really pushed me over the edge. Just way too many horrible neo-liberal jackasses in one place, changing things around and ruining everything of value with their cell-phones, Macintosh's, BMW's, "artist" lofts, nightclubs etc... of course, you can't go ANYWHERE to get away from that, so up the mountain I went. It's still not far enough away... might have to move to Antarctica. To address the other part of the question, sure, you can hear the "muse" who speaks the language of "music" a little more clearly from up here... that, and the howling coyotes. Well, and the bombs Lockheed Martin is testing about 30 miles away.

Ken Eakins: Finally, do you have a musical philosophy, and what drives you to make the music you make?

Trey Spruance: I think it is that "muse" I just referred to. I'm pretty much a slave to it. I do what it wants me to do, because if I don't, my life just turns into shit. But also there is a war going on, everything that is not immediately "tangible" and reducible to the most banal, visible, and basic components of sight, sound, and mental conception is being questioned, leaving only things that are readily available to the dimmest sensibilities standing... what is particularly bad is the vulgarization of once-higher concepts. These displays that are purportedly well-intentioned attempts to make "difficult" things easy-to-digest, and available "for everyone". A good example is the Qabalah. Sure there are broad cosmological outlines that most people can comprehend, but are you really supposed to THINK you know what those things are without even ever having attempted, say, the Zohar? Is that good? Is it possible that there might be some REASON that a person should actually consult and attempt a more direct comprehension of the Sepher Yetzirah instead of one of the million books that purports to reveal it's so-called secrets, in "plain language", and easy-to-digest terms? I'd like to remind people that if someone goes to Sardenia and eats a four course feast with grilled squid and pasta and pesto risotto, if you cut into their stomach to find out in clear and well-digested terms just how good that meal was, what you will be tasting is VOMIT... So, armed with our dim understanding of Hermeticism, Sufism and Qabalah primarily, we are officially AT WAR with this tendency towards reductionism... in EVERYTHING. ESPECIALLY MUSIC!!!

Exclusive Interview (2)

Justin Sanvicens from Xtreme Music interviewed Tim Smolens on July 14, 2004 Santa Cruz (CA).

Xtreme Music: I'm here with Tim Smolens in Santa Cruz, and we're gonna be discussing some of the work with Don Salsa, Estradasphere and more recently with Secret Chiefs 3. Let's start with Don Salsa, for someone that's not familiar with their music how would you best describe it to them?

Tim Smolens: Well, there's little chance that my parents will hear this interview.. (laughs).. you-know that was from when we were in high school, Jason and I were originally in Don Salsa, my brother, and a couple of other friends.. I'm not actually answering your question yet but we're getting there. We went through a whole bunch of phazes in high school, and at one point we start dropping some acid and just happened to have the first Mr. Bungle album around, and it instantly changed what we were doing from like a grunge Nirvana wanna be kinda thing to an instant boom and we were on another page. That's right when we decided that we were gonna start writing like that. So it took another two and a half years before that album was actually done. But then I think when Disco Volante came out was the big turning point. At first we didn't even like Disco Volante because we were expecting a certain thing, we had all these expectations: "It's gonna be just like the first one by more intense!" We came around after a little while and then really became heavily influenced by that, i mean it's obvious that that's what the influence is. We kinda feel like we did it in a respectful way. Most bands that you hear that have a Bungle influence, you-know it's lame and cheesy. Trey has actually told me that we were the only people that he's ever heard were Bungle was a good influence. People give him tapes all the time and it's like a Mike Patton sounding singer. People take the cheesist elements of what it is and just rip it off in a lame way. At the same time doing those psychodelic drugs helped strip me of what I call my "american programming", just all the growing up in the eighties thinking this is normal, you-know thinking this is what life is, and then everything was just collapsing. That's around the time in your life when that should happen, theoretically if things are going well.

Xtreme Music: One of my favourite compositions on the Don Salsa album "Koolaide Moustache In Jonestown" is the first one, "The Deck" where it's thirty-two minute..

Tim Smolens: That's the one! Everything else is just a extra.. (laughter).. that's the song!

Xtreme Music: How would you best describe that composition to someone that's picking it up for the first time?

Tim Smolens: It was all recorded, I mean obviously you can hear it in separate parts but all I had was very primative technology at the time and that was my first project as a producer. Listening to all that, somehow listening to Disco Volante over and over on psychodelics I was able to obsorb the production style to a degree that it just became almost inherent and just unlocked it in me what to do without even needing to think about it. We had just two eight dats, so it's sixteen tracks and on almost every piece of music there's at least seventy or eighty tracks going on at one time. So we would have to record fourteen, just go ahead and say ok we're gonna mix these, go into two, do that again, record it to two at whatever quality loss we were getting because we were doing that.

Xtreme Music: So Don Salsa was the first experience you had of being in a studio where you're encorporating a lot of production techniques into your music.. what innovative production techniques did you encorporate when you were recording some of that Don Salsa music?

Tim Smolens: I didn't have a lot of great microphones at the time or pre-amps or compressors which I learned about later, I just had a couple of alright mics and an eight dat and mixing board. So it was more the layering obviously of what to put on top of each other, instrumental combinations, playing the same part or just noise. We had a ton of just noise experimentation, taking mixing board chanels and feeding the back into each other and changing the equaliser on those. Just experimentations, we were young and it was just that time in your life you-know. It's too bad you don't stay like that forever, maybe you have to work really hard to try. Everything was just so fresh and new to us.

Xtreme Music: There's some great influences on that album with Don Salsa including elements from Jack Marshall, Rob Stewart, and the Mr. Bungle influence in itself. Are there any other musicians in particular which have greatly influenced you?

Tim Smolens: For Don Salsa did you notice the Willie Wonka stuff on it? I mean the album starts "You're gonna love this!", that's what Willie Wonka says right before he takes the kids into the crazy tunnel. So that's the ride that "The Deck" emulates, or the album you-know you think you're going on this chocolate river but you're going into the depths of hell.. (laughter). We were really into that movie at the time, just watching a lot of it. Althroughout "The Deck" you can hear the noise, go watch that movie again and check out the things that the people are saying during that boat ride. All the different little characters: "Oh Wonka let me off!".. those are all throughout that cresendoing noise, the last three minutes and when it finally reaches the pinnacle of of the noise you'll hear "Aaahh! We've had enough! OK stop the boat!", when Willie Wonka says that then it goes boom! (Tim Smolens mimics the closing theme to "The Deck"). So you'll hear all that stuff in there.

Xtreme Music: Which particular Rob Stewart tracks were you incorporating into "Rod Stew Art"?

Tim Smolens: Oh man there's a ton of them! There's like ten songs, let's see, Jeff is singing, and if you listen to the lyrics, like the original: "He's inside my head I feel I wonder why", that's not a Rod Stewart song that's the only thing in there that's not. That's a lyric about a stalker, like an obsessed fan who's got Rob Stewart dead underneath his bed, "Now poor Roddy's dead underneath my bed." That's the last line. So behind that are all these Rod Stewart songs are all intermingling with each other. It's starts off with, let's see (Tim Smolens begins drum roll).. "Some guys have all the luck..", "He's inside my head I feel I wonder why".. (continues reciting the complete lyrics at a rapid rate).. "Young hearts be free.." it changes to that one "..tonight. Time is on your side", and then at the end it's all these ones "infatuation forever young, infatuation, leave virginia alone", "will I see you tonight.." (Tim Smolens beings laughing after successfully vocalizing the entire "Rod Stew Art" song from the album)..

[Don Salsa's "Rod Stew Art" covers "Some Guys Have All The Luck", "Young Turks", "Infactuation", "Forever Young", "Leave Virginia Alone", and "Downtown Train" all originally performed by Rod Stewart].

Xtreme Music: It's a fantastic medley of songs..

Tim Smolens: You-know what we said about that one actually, we said right when we recorded that, we just acknowledged that we will never ever be able to do something this good again! This is the pinnacle of it all!..

Xtreme Music: And Tim who would you say have been your main influences and how have they shaped your musical direction.. throughout your career?

Tim Smolens: I used to be an aspiring glam-rock guitarist when I was a young kid, I was gonna be prodigy kinda thing and I was really young and just into that. Then I finally got into Nirvana when they came and killed me, so I was forced to change you-know you've gotta be cool in ninth or tenth grade. Then it was Mr. Bungle and the acid which just ruined me!.. (laughter). It ruined me instantly, since then it's been some other things. Mr. Bungle was my favourite band in the world for the longest time and now it's changed to The Beach Boys. It's been The Beach Boys for a long time.

Xtreme Music: The Beach Boys have had a significant influence on your other side-project I.S.S.

Tim Smolens: Actually both, more on Estradasphere than you'd think. I mean Brian Wilson was the best music producer there ever was! By far there's not anyone that can do anything remotely similar. His would all be one track.. it would be as if Mr. Bungle or Estradasphere knew every instrument we wanted to and got everyone in the same room and boom, there's the take.

Xtreme Music: Brilliant! Could you tell us about your latest release with Estradasphere "Quadropus", and some of the work you've been doing with that?

Tim Smolens: It's been over now for a while and as you all probably know, John has left the band. It's a weird album coz you-know I don't think anyone feels, well there's a lot of mixed feelings I have about it that it's our best work. Sonically, it might be in a way, like it sounds really good, it definitely does not flow like an album and that's because there was some big creative differences where we said: "OK, I'm gonna do my songs! I gonna do this!" without a group of people coming together and going "What is this album gonna be like?" You-know it was all just about, here's my songs, here's my songs, ok let's put them on.. things were not flowing as a band. John was on a totally different page than us for quite some time and it had just turned into this hugh rift.

Xtreme Music: How did you feel about John Whooley leaving Estradasphere?

Tim Smolens: I was totally relieved because I would have left probably. Him and I had butt heads a lot.. I wanted to make the band more towards the Don Salsa direction.. He had this idea that he wanted our music to be able to be liked by everyone in the world and I'm like that's not one of my goals. I'm not looking for the least common denominator in music.

Xtreme Music: Just talking about "Quadropus" the latest album, one of my particular favourites is "Dubway" where it's an a cappella drum and bass inspired piece. What I've always loved about Estradasphere's music is that every track is a totally different musical style, so essentially there's something there for everyone. Could you tell us more specificially about the tracks you worked quite heavily on for the "Quadropus" album?

Tim Smolens: I produced the whole thing except for "Dubway", so I worked heavily on the entire album. When it comes to a record I probably put like, I'm gonna make some weird rough estimates.. if the rest of the band puts two-hundred hours each into it, I probably put a thousand hours.. every night just editing, you-know that's my job.

Xtreme Music: You've worked closely with Trey Spruance on the label and as part of Estradasphere. What's it been like working with Trey Spruance..?

Tim Smolens: It's awesome! I mean he was my hero you-know. I knew somehow when I first heard Mr. Bungle, most people think Patton.. there's that whole image that yeah it's Patton, and I kinda knew that my vibration was with Trey. I knew he was the guy I needed to meet, this was like when I was still in high school. So we sort of stalked him in a friendly sort of way. We were working on the Don Salsa album and we were about half way through, so we had a couple of things to show him. We went down to a show in San Diego, drove down from L.A. and I saw him, we were waiting near the venue before the show and we saw him at the back of the club, the back parking lot. Handed him a tape, that's the first time we had planted it and I didn't get to talk to him till later. He said he liked it.. I had e-mailed I guess the Web Of Mimicry which ends up at him, can get forwarded to him if you say this is to Trey. I was telling him about how I was very proficient in the programming of the Curswell 2500 Keyboard, and I was telling him all about this keyboard: "You guys need to get one of these!".. It just so happened that Mr. Bungle was just about to record California and they were gonna need exactly that, some major keyboard upgrades. So he was like so why don't you come up to my house and show it to me. This was the first time, it's like "Woah! I'm going to Trey's house!".. (laughs).. you-know it was totally like a big deal! I had prepared all these compositions and all these things so that I could simultaneously show him what the keyboard can do with sounds and compositions. He was totally into it and then I just let them borrow the keyboard for California. We've been friends ever since!

Xtreme Music: Back in July 1999, Estradasphere had a secret show with Mr. Bungle. Could you tell us about that live performance?

Tim Smolens: That's pretty insane too! It's like your playing with the people that inspired you and started you off doing this kind of music, there's no secrets about that. It was a pretty hectic show and it almost didn't happen, there was some drama with the band and Mike. There were too many people it's was getting out to, it was supposed to be nobody there. They wanted to have the less people the better so that they could practive there set for the tour that was gonna start the next day. Then they insisted on going on before us..

Xtreme Music: You've toured with some of my favourite groups, Secret Chiefs 3, Tub Ring, and Farmers Market. What's it been like working with those bands?

Tim Smolens: Farmers Market man, they are the best musicians I have ever seen!.. Seriously, by far! Just the whole band really, but obviously the one that sticks out is Steon, the accordianist. He's just on another planet! He can pick up any instrument and play it better than you, even if that's the instrument you spent twelve hours a day playing, and make it look like it's nothing. Everyone in that band is just on another level!.. It makes me feel like all I have is the way I produce records that I can make my mark you-know. Everyone's like Estradasphere are these great musicians. I'm like: "Dude, we suck compared to these guys!", as far as technical musicianship, or gypsy music, and some of the stuff we've been known to play. It makes me wanna work that extra bit harder at doing what I can do differently.

Xtreme Music: How did Estradasphere band members first come into contact with Farmers Market?

Tim Smolens: Our friend Randy, a good friend from L.A.. he was in this whole circle of people that we know now. Adam actually, our new accordianist, keyboardist was from that whole group of people. They were these really young kids into Bungle, Estradasphere and they're just gung-ho about it. They'd always drive up to our shows and stuff like that. So he just found out about this band, Farmers Market and he was really into Bulgarian music. He figured out how to get the Norweigan government to actually pay for bands like that to fly around. So he had booked all the shows for the tour and did all the arrangements for it. We didn't even know what we were walking into. I had heard the albums and was like: "Alright, these guys are really good!" The first night of the club we're just like: "Oh my god!" It was probably the worst show we've ever played in our lives! Seriously embarassing!.. That whole tour we were at a pretty low point in our existance. We're sort of having a rebirth now just because John finally left the band, and we're able to more of a focused thing. Playing all those shows on the Farmers Market tour was an absolute embarassment to tell you the truth..

Xtreme Music: I'm seeing a similarity between the creative core of Mr. Bungle, being Mike Patton and Trey Spruance, and with Estradasphere, yourself Tim Smolens and John Whooley. Do you feel that there has been this weird relationship between the two highly creative members of the band, constantly having this friction?

Tim Smolens: Well with Estradasphere it's Jason too. I mean Jason has probably written more than anyone on the albums if you just look at the credits.. Timba hasn't classically written as much. He starting to write more but he comes from a classical background where you're not taught about that so it's been a really beautiful experience in watching that mold slowly come off of him you-know towards improvisation. So the composition was pretty much me, John, and Jason, with Dave a little bit.

Xtreme Music: The recent DVD release "Passion For Life" by Mark Thornton and Steven Reysen is an awesome release on the Mimicry Records web site. What's your take on the DVD release of the latest Estradasphere work?

Tim Smolens: Ah, you-know Mark he's just trying to make some money.. I think Mark did the best job that he could with the material that he had. I'm not afraid to say that I haven't been happy with the direction the band was live for a long time, for at least the past two years which a lot of the material came from. We lost our drummer and we never actually had one, so we're like flying this guy from L.A. and just doing what we could just to stay afloat, but we weren't moving forward. We weren't learning new material, we weren't getting better playing with each other. We all live in Santa Cruz but we weren't playing with each other at all!.. like I said I think he did a great job with the editing and there's only so much you can do with the material you have.

Xtreme Music: To talk about some of your work with Secret Chiefs 3, could you tell us about your work on the latest album "Book Of Horizons"?

Tim Smolens: I got kicked out of my house at one point and Trey lives pretty close to me, has a cool house up in the woods. He's doing his recording there and he's got a little room to record. I was getting evicted and I have all this equipment, I have like way more stuff than he does, you'd be surprise how little equipment he actually has and does what he does on it. But I just have tons of stuff, I'm like: "Can I put it at your house?" So he had used a PC before to record "Book M", and then I was like "No you need to move over to Mac and use what I'm using", I was trying to sell him on the idea and then I'm like "Just let me put my whole system on yours, I have no place to put this right now." So I got him set up with Digital Performer and showed him how to use it, it's a really complicated MIDI program and like his arrangements were so complicated and so much work. I'd go over there and help him just put it into the program and have the tempos set up and the meter changes, and get all that set up. Mostly the rest of it was just him, and then he called me in to do bass tracks, I think I did it all on one day or two days. A twelve hour day or something like that, and did some cello maybe and some bowed bass.

Xtreme Music: You played a fantastic show at the South By Southwest Festival with Secret Chiefs 3. Could you tell us about that live performance?

Tim Smolens: That was the first one with this new line-up we have. We didn't have very much time to get the show together. We'd never played a show with Adam or Kevin before, and Theo's not our drummer, he was just kind of our stand in drummer. So I think it's a small glimse of what's to come. We didn't have a lot of time for that show at all.

Xtreme Music: How have your live tours with Estradasphere been going throughout the years, and what has the crowd reaction been like?

Tim Smolens: It's been pretty good! I think I'm a real jerk as far as my standards of things, so I'm the kinda guy that almost all the time is saying "No that's not good enough!" Since we've had those creative problems in the band, it put us in a carriage with a broken wheel. We had some good tours and some great shows, but I also think we've had a lot of sloppy shows and a lot of sloppy parts.. I think in a lot of ways we deserve the criticism. There's a lot of people out there that are like: "These guys are really good, but they're not the best they can be". Our albums and our live shows are so different, like our albums we have as much time as we want to put as much work into it and ever since Dave left the band we have not been a band moving forward. We've kept on rehiring Dave, it's almost like hiring your ex-girlfriend to make love to you or something like that!.. (laughter).. Honestly, that's kinda what it feels like and Dave didn't want to do the tours, he doesn't like touring so we're like: "Dude, we'll pay you!", and he's like: "Alright, I guess I'll go..", he didn't want to go that's why he quite the band you-know.. (laughs). At last we're finally at a place where we can move forward.

Xtreme Music: Tim what would you feel has been the most memorable or best experience in your music career working with Estradasphere, but also more recently with Secret Chiefs 3?

Tim Smolens: There's been so many! Just touring with the Secret Chiefs 3, everything from meeting Trey to working with him and recording on the Secret Chiefs. Having him help mix a song for us, being on his label, it's all been like a dream come true! But you-know now it's just like a normal thing. So now we're like totally good friends.. all those things, playing all those shows. Estradasphere has had some great moments back when we were a realy band. Back when we were young, we're old now.

Xtreme Music: And for my final question I'd like to ask, where can you see the musical direction for Estradasphere going in the near future?

Tim Smolens: Man, I don't even know if I should say.. it's almost like gossip. My desire in the band for a long time is for the music to be a lot crazier. A lot, not even just a little bit!..

Xtreme Music: Going back to the roots of your influences with Mr. Bungle..

Tim Smolens: Yeah, I wanted to basically merge those two influences, I wanted to morph the psychodelic sound for whatever the hell that means. I know what that means to me but I don't know what that means to other people. More of that kind of like anything can happen you-know, so I think not to give too much away. I wouldn't be surprised if the spirit of Don Salsa, back to that which is what actually Don Salsa is, it's an entity that possessed us!.. It's your muse, but I wouldn't be surprised if that spirit actually kidnaps Estradasphere, literally that's what happens. If it's just a gag or whatever, something to that effect!

Xtreme Music: Well, it's been great to meet you Tim Smolens, an absolute pleasure!

Exclusive Interview (2)

Justin Sanvicens from Xtreme Music interviewed Shahzad Ismaily of Two Foot Yard on August 12, 2004 New York (NY), The Tonic.

Xtreme Music: I'm here with Shahzad Ismaily outside The Tonic in New York City. I'd like to start the interview by asking about the Two Foot Yard performance that you played in this evening. How exactly did you meet Carla Kihlstedt and how has her work influenced you?

Shahzad Ismaily: Carla I met her because a while ago my mother was going to a psychiatric conference in San Francisco, California. I often accompany my mom on these different occassions just to hang out with her and see what's what. So on this particular occasion she invited me to come with her, and I went to San Francisco which is where Carla and the rest of this crew are based. I went out to see something called The San Francisco Stretch Festival which was advertized in the paper as some sort of conglomerization of just weird musicians, and that's what I'm into mostly. So I went to see the performance and Mark Growden was playing, who's an exceptionally talented songwriter, accordianist, that sort of thing. Nils Frykdahl, the lead singer from Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, was playing with them. So I ended up by way of going on tour with Mark, meeting Nils and Dawn, who is his girlfriend and an incredible musician from Faun Fables. Then the next time Nils was in town, he invited me to see a show called Charming Hostess. Carla was playing violin and singing in that band. Immediately after I saw her perform I was really enthralled. So is my want sometimes, I was a little bit forward and went up to her and said "I'd like to play with you sometime, can I get your number?". So you-know musicians on the road are usually taken aback by that sort of thing because it happens too frequently and you never quite know what's going on with the person taking to you. In any case, for some reason she was kind of ok with it, she gave me her number. I called her the next day and pestered her to come down to an open electronic music jam that I was doing with this drummer JoJo Mayer. She came and we talked for a while and that's ultimately how I met her, through that crowd Charming Hostess, Nils Frykdahl and Idiot Flesh. Now the way she has influenced me the most, I'd have to say is that she has severe classical training, like very intense. She was probably on that virtuoso path to being an exceptionally talented symphony violinist. She derailed it almost immediately because she wanted a deeper experience with music. Now that's not to say, of course there are classical musicians that interprete pedagogy, and they interprete the canon of classical music quite deeply. But I think the generalization you can make is that unfortunately it's a field that tends to produce technocrates as apposed to musicians. She was challenging herself to stay outside of that, and that in turn pulled me towards her because that's also what I want out of music. I want it to be a very deep experiential thing that's not based on form necessarily, or tuning, or notes, or rhythms, or anything, but something more abstract than that.

Xtreme Music: Who would you say have inspired you the most lyrically and musically?

Shahzad Ismaily: I'm playing with a songwriter Garret Devoe who's lyrics constantly blow my mind! His influences are old luddite style influences, William Blake, Burt Jonche, Leonard Cohen, obviously Nick Drake, that sort of thing. He's a very, very deep writer and so having played a lot with him, I've gone back now and done some backwards research and listened to a lot of those musicians, and have extremely appreciated their lyrics. Then also I tend to like lyricists that write very simply, leaving the audience member or the listener to interprete their own experience within a very simple phrase. Bands like Low or Bjork often have these very mono-phrase, repetitive things that then become grander and grander as you listen to them.

Xtreme Music: You've also collaborated with Trey Spruance in Secret Chiefs 3, could you tell us a little bit about your work on "Book Of Horizons"?

Shahzad Ismaily: That was ridiculously hard music to learn and to play. I mean Trey is an outstanding composer who is meticulous about every detail that happens in a track. Sometimes you play with people and you're kind of excited about their looseness. For example, if I listen to a Cat Power record I'm excited by the fact that the drummer never seems to be caralled into playing "properly". He's allowed freedom to just be incredible loose and Trey is on the flipside of that, but equally beautiful. In the sense that every detail of every hit. He wants you to play the drum in the right place, at the right time, with the right sound. The tracking of that record was incredibly time consuming and fulfilling because of it. I basically moved into his house and slept on the floor of his studio and tracked for twelve hours a day. Often just the right hand of an instrument and then later the left hand of the instrument because it was so complex that you couldn't do it at the same time. Just unbelievable!

Xtreme Music: Talking furthermore about your work with Trey Spruance, are there any particular favourites from that latest release on Mimicry Records which you'd like to mention?

Shahzad Ismaily: My favourites are oddly enough ones that I didn't play on. For example, he remade a song called "Exodus" that I guess was originally a track on a film score.. Trey is very well versed in philosophy so his records have this huge underpinning of reading and book knowledge underneath them, which I don't really share unfortunately. But "Exodus" was always a beautiful, fun song to play. Then if I had to pick on that I played on, I think it was called "The 19" and it's a very loping, weird kinda feel.

Xtreme Music: It's definitely an incredible album from Secret Chiefs 3, and also one of my personal favourites from that album is that track "Exodus" by Ernest Gold, an amazing composer. You've also collaborated with Elysian Fields, could you tell us about your work with Jennifer Charles?

Shahzad Ismaily: Jennifer Charles is, as many would testify to, an illuring figure in terms of her stage presence and just her vocal presence on recording. I think one thing that doesn't get talked about enough is the fact that the song writing is such a sort of long-term relationship between Oren and Jennifer. The way that I really found that out recently, is that Oren had some free studio time by himself. He decided to go in and just invite some musicians to record one of his songs. His writing, just his chord progressions are so deep and then you add Jennifer into the mix who lyrics are exceptional and who's vocal presence is exceptional. It's a really thrilling band to play with because I tend to like very slow, very sad music. When you're up there playing with them, if everyone is in the moment and the band is playing well together, you experience a sense of timelessness almost immediately, and that's really wonderful.

Xtreme Music: You've had some incredible live performances with Two Foot Yard, Secret Chiefs 3 and Elysian Fields. What has the crowd reaction been like and what would you say has been the most memorable live show that you've participated in?

Shahzad Ismaily: Crowd reaction has always been good, I mean Elysian Fields and Secret Chiefs 3 are both bands with a lot of longevity, so they have automatic crowds. I started playing with them very recently and was surprised to find that when you do a show it's a packed house instantenously. Of course of lot of those are fans so they give you a very warm response. Having just come out of this particular show it's hard not to say that this was my most memorable show, just because of the closeness of the experience. So in particular tonight we were able to play so quietly and with so much focus that sometimes there was a beautiful tension between one hit on the cymbal and then the next hit on the cymbal. It seemed like there was an eon of space between the two and I was afraid to play it almost the second time.. (laughs). It was really intense!

Xtreme Music: This is my third time seeing Two Foot Yard and I must say this has been.. my favourite experience seeing Two Foot Yard perform. What could you tell us about the writing processes involved in actually composing the music?

Shahzad Ismaily: That's a good question because be just came from four and a half days at my mother's place near the border of Canada, near Ottawa. Initially, the writing process was Carla had written all the songs basically on the first record. She met me on tour and said "Would you play drums in this band that I have?" and she knew Marika for a long time. So when we first came in to record that, we hadn't written anything. Although, it could be argued, as it is with the case with instrumentalists, that you write your own part. Rarely does anyone tell me what to play on drums, so I'm often writing and collaborating in that way. But this last four and a half days was exceptional, because finally after playing long enough, we're starting to write material together. Like three or four of the new songs we've played tonight, literally one section would be written by one person and then the next one by the other person, and then the next one by the other person. Although lyrically it seems to be just a single source.

Xtreme Music: And for my final question I'd like to ask, what future collaborations have you got coming out that you'd like to mention?

Shahzad Ismaily: Well, there are two things that I'm working on a great deal. One is this women named Indigo Morris, who is a songwriter in the New York music scene about three, four, maybe five years ago and has since stopped playing, and kinda gone underground a little bit. She is incredible, I mean she's probably one of my favourite guitarist in New York, and that's hard to say because there's so many amazing guitarists, Marc Ribot etcetera. But her ear for writing guitar parts, her ear for writing melodies, her absolute insistance on the purity of the experience. Because you-know once you become a musician you can be sullied almost immediately by things like the music business, by making records, promoting yourself, flyers. Every step I feel like, and this is probably a little bit hardcore. Every step in that direction removes your initial connection to music as an artform as if you were a child. She retains an absolute insistance on that kind of purity and that's really overwhelming. The second thing I would suggest looking into is already out, and it's not a recording I'm on yet, but I'm performing with the band, it's called Doveman. We are playing tomorrow night at The Tonic here at eight o'clock also. It's very slow, beautiful, well-crafted music. That's actually the keyboard player from Elysian Fields.

Xtreme Music: It's been wonderful to meet you Shahzad Ismaily! Thank you very much for a very insightful interview.