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Holy Mountain flag Scotland - Full Moon 216 - 04/15/14

Holy Mountain
An interview with Andy McGlone of Holy Mountain

"A wonderful psychedelic journey to Saturn, Jupiter and beyond the infinite"

"Fast as fuck, fleein' all the time, running through the forest, traveling through time." - Holy Mountain's Facebook tag line indeed works well as a musical manifesto for the Scottish threepiece. Formed some five years ago by guitarist and singer Andy McGlone and Drummer Pete Flett and since 2012 completed by former Idlewild guitarist Allan Stewart on bass, Holy Mountain have been praised for their unconventional high engery rock'n'roll ever since they released their debut mini album Earth Measures a couple of years ago. Having recorded that album in just 17 hours, the trio now took a little more time to put together their first full-length, Ancient Astronauts, an album that sees Holy Mountain branch out with a more detailed production and the addition of keyboards for the first time to flesh out their psychedelic hard rock sound inspired by the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Deep Purple, MC5 and a certain doom metal band you better not mention around the guys. Luna Kafe talked to frontman Andy.

LK: Where are you, while you answer these questions and what is the vibe like?
Andy: I'm sitting in my bedroom taking a break from university work and the vibe is pretty good! My flat is a good place for me where I can be creative. I gave up my living room for my electronics workshop and I am constantly distracted from what I am doing by all the projects I have lying around!

LK: You build (some of) your own equipment. Is that just a fun exercise first and foremost or if that was part of your manifesto to do things just a little different?
Andy: A bit of both really. I first started building my own equipment because it is so expensive to buy things like guitar pedals! How do you justify spending the money if you think you can create it yourself? Fast forward 5 or 6 years and I'm about to graduate with an honours degree in electronics! I love creating whether it is with music or electronics. I used to read about how Hendrix had an engineer he would go to called Roger Meyer, and Jimi would describe sounds to him and off Roger would go and try and build something to create the sound Jimi had described. I like to work closely with my customers to help them get the sounds in their heads.

Holy Mountain LK: As for Holy Mountain - what's it like to be in in the band in 2014 and what do you consider to be the main difference to when you first started out some five years ago?
Andy: It's a very exciting time for the band at the moment, we are all eager to get the new album out and get playing shows again! We all seem to be very busy most of the time and our timetables hardly ever match up so it is a good feeling to be focussed together about the album and forthcoming tour. Five years ago I would never have thought we would be releasing even one album, never mind two! Pete and I were the definition of two guys who just loved making noise and that was the basis for all the early shows, just having fun!

LK: Your band's main premise seems to be focussing on the music, favoring high engery over perfection, having a positive vibe and generally absorbing 70s music while steering clear of all the cliches usually attached to it. Such a simple plan really! Why do you think there's not more bands going doing that path?
Andy: Haha, that's a good question! I think the main thing is that we do not take ourselves too seriously. Bands have a tendency to over think the music they write, in fact I am guilty myself of over thinking previous projects, and then when I learned to relax and just enjoy playing guitar the music that came out was Holy Mountain. So many musicians these days are too into the idea of being in a band for the image, trying to be the cool guys, and totally forgetting to just have fun and play whatever feels good! The three of us all grew up idolising 70 heavy rock bands like Zeppelin, Motörhead and Deep Purple, so they are naturally the strongest influences that come through in the music we create.

LK: I suppose your initial plan was to have just a two piece with limited rehearsal time and an improvised feel to the music. Obviously you have evolved quite a bit since then, but how did these changes come about?
Andy: The more we improvised as a two-piece the more we would find certain parts during each set we played that we wanted to try and recreate again. The more we played the same parts the more I wanted to experiment with them. The parts themselves felt like they wanted to evolve, but I was very limited to what I could do as I had to fill in all the space in the sound with just the one guitar. We tried different things like looping one part through a bass amp then playing over it through a guitar amp but it was all getting a bit too complicated and taking away from the execution of the set. We demoed a few tracks and put bass on them and when we listened back to them it didn't take us long to decide we were getting a bass player!

LK: Is the more expansive sound on the new album possibly in part a reaction to feeling a bit pigeonholed after the first mini LP and constantly being compared to THAT band (you know who)?
Andy: The more expansive sound is a totally natural direction for the band to take. The songs didn't stop evolving after we added bass and to keep things sonically interesting it felt natural to expand with some keys! Plus we were listening to a LOT of Deep Purple at the time... As for the Black Sabbath thing, we really don't mind the comparison, it's an honour to be compared to a band like Sabbath! But there was some lazy journalism going around at the time of the mini album and some people who clearly didn't know what they were talking about would immediately make the connection because they couldn't think of anything else to say.

coverpic LK: With all the influences that shine through on the new album: Would you be willing to quickly walk us through your life as a music fan and name the stepping stones in terms of music that shaped you, preferably in roughly chronological order?
Andy: Wow, such a personal question! How far back should I go... I have very early memories of listening to my parent's records like Queen, Dire Straits, Meat Loaf(!), even Boney M and ABBA! But the first real rock music I got into myself was Hendrix, particularly Hendrix at Woodstock. I would sit and watch his improvisations on a VHS I had and played along as best I could with this terrible acoustic guitar I had that made my fingers bleed. I think that's where I got a feel for improvisations and got addicted to the ENERGY that he would give out. The guy just oozed charisma, I couldn't take my eyes off of him. As I got older I started to listen to punk rock and roll, contemporary stuff like The Hellacopters and Gluecifer. Again, I loved the energy those bands gave off, it's like they weren't trying hard at all, they just didn't give a fuck but made the most incredible sounds! It was through these bands I started going back in time, finding the likes of The MC5, Sonics Rendezvous, The Stooges, Motörhead, Kiss. I just couldn't get enough of high energy rock and roll! That kind of music spoke to me. It said,"you don't have to be the best player if you have the attitude!". It wasn't 'til later I really started paying attention to the more well known bands like Zeppelin and Sabbath. I much prefer to listen to/watch live recordings of them than records as I think it's a better representation of what they were trying to achieve. My favourite Zeppelin show has to be the Danish TV footage from 1969. Such attitude, and too early for any egotism. They're just kids! Sabbath's 1970 Paris show or Beat Club footage is incredible too. Most recently I have been listening to anything psychedelic like Deep Purple, 13th Floor Elevators or Hawkwind.

LK: Was there a specific turning point, a moment when you realized that you wanted to become a musician?
Andy: As far back as I can remember I wanted to be a guitarist. I remember jumping around my bedroom as a child with a badminton racket playing along to the riff on Money For Nothing! Got my first guitar at 13 and played it until my fingers were bleeding.

LK: If you had to narrow it down to just one thing: What made the biggest difference while recording the new album?
Andy: Two things made a difference for me. Having more time in the studio meant after the rhythm and drum tracks where done I could spend more time than I usually would experimenting with guitar tones so the songs have a lot more variation in texture this time round. The other thing would be the presence of keyboards, courtesy of an old friend of ours Graeme Smillie. The keys just bring the songs together and give a whole new dynamic to our sound.

LK: Before the recording, you said that on the new album the faster bits would be faster, the slower bits would be slower and the psychedelic stuff more psychedelic. I like that way of putting it a lot! Looking back on the finished record now, do you still think that's a valid way of describing it?
Andy: Yes, we kept that in mind when recording and I think we've managed to do it. There is a part in the middle of Star Kings that is the slowest we've ever recorded, and there are a few moments on the record that are absolutely fleein'! The record overall is a wonderful psychedelic journey to Saturn, Jupiter and beyond the infinite! We are very proud of it!

Photo by Gemma Burke LK: In the press sheet, Paul Savage gets a lot of credit for his production work on new new album and you've previously praised Iain Cook (who mixed the mini album) as well. Silly question maybe, but with your (still) very straighforward approach, concentrating on capturing the live engery of the band, what can a producer do for you?
Andy: I think the drum sound can make or break an album and in my opinion Paul's main area of expertise is drum sound! He absolutely nailed it for us and the resulting sound is huge. He also worked his magic throughout mixing. I particularly like the phaser effect on "100 Years A Day", that was a new toy Paul had brought in for mixing one day and it sounds magic!

LK: A lot has been said about you recording your debut in a matter of hours and in very few takes. As far as I know you took a little longer this time? How long did it take you and was having more time always a blessing?
Andy: We took around the same amount of time for tracking the drums and bass, which we did live again of course, and that took around ten hours. We then spent the next 2-3 days doing guitars, vocals and keys, so a lot more time went into creating a more texturally varied album than the first one but the same raw energetic feel is retained. Even with freedom of time constraints we were still careful not to take too long over parts. After 3 or 4 takes the spontaneity is gone and we would just move on to something else and come back to it later.

LK: Despite the somewhat grim state of today's music industry - are you happy to be a musician right here and now, or would you trade places with a musician in the 60s or 70s in a second, if someone put a time machine in your hands?
Andy: We'd love to go back and play a few shows, but at the end of the day I think we belong right here where we are. For better or worse this is our time, and despite the state of today's music, if even one kid comes to a show and leaves thinking "Fuck yeah! Psychedelic high energy rock and roll!" and starts a band then it's been worthwhile.

LK: Silly last question: What's there to avoid when talking/writing about your band?
Andy: We will talk about anything really. No taboos, even Black Sabbath! Things that annoy us the most are other bands who drink all the rider!

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