Collaboration comes in weird and wonderful ways, and it’s only been heightened by the events of the past few years.
The plans for Salisman were well in motion before the COVID-19 pandemic, however. The then three-piece of Chicago natives, Paul Foreman and Travis Salisbury, and Newcastle’s Chris Tate (also of Score) have been trading sonic barbs across the Atlantic for a while now, starting with their 2020 debut album, Absolution.
The band’s second album, Clairvoyance, landed in January this year to much fanfare around these parts. Which is why their follow-up, Gulch, was a lovely surprise as the two albums essentially provide the bookends to 2022.
Continuing the pattern of their preceding two releases by way of a slight moniker alteration, this time under Salisman & His Celestial Bodies (the previous two being Salisman & His Hermetic Order and Salisman & His Blessed Eunuchs),Gulch may just be the band’s finest moment caught on tape so far.
Comparing the two 2022 releases, and while Clairvoyance was a tourism of sound encompassing experimental rock music of the past 25 years, Gulch feels like the more streamlined of the two.
With Salisbury’s rich pedal steel proving the vital thread through the Salisman patchwork, opening track Zephyr may just be the underground pop gem we all crave for in time. The dream rock reverie of Lexington Strut and Miriam Stardust & Jack continue the Salesman ascendency, while album highlight, Union Ridge Cemetery, is undoubtedly the band’s finest song to date.
While Gulch may be one of those records that takes a little longer to sink into the bones, the results are splendid. All told, it’s merely splitting hairs when trying to pick out the better of their 2022 releases, to the point where it really doesn’t matter – just listen to them back-to-back, as the adventure is an absolute treat.
Shortly after the release of Gulch, Foreman and Salisbury answered some of our questions, including how the band got together, their inspirations and what the future holds for Salisman.
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S13: I actually like the idea of changing your name with every release. What was the thought process behind it?
Paul Foreman: “The name change works well with the loose idea of an unsuccessful cult leader (Salisman) who continually sheds and then rebuilds his base of followers. I imagine him reinventing himself and slowly starting over every couple of years. His current followers are the ‘celestial bodies’.”
S13: You guys are on either side of the Atlantic – you guys are based in Chicago and Chris up in Newcastle here in the U.K. How did you guys all meet?
PF: “This is very nerdy: I met Chris many years ago via the Spiritualized fan forum. He was in a band called d_rradio at the time. I really liked them, so I asked him to do a remix for my band, Soft Speaker, which is still in existence. I think he wound up doing two or three remixes for Soft Speaker. I was aware of Chris’s strengths based on that experience and I knew he was what we needed in terms of a collaborator for the Salisman project, despite the fact that he lives in another country. I actually have known Chris longer than I have known Travis, but I only met Chris in person for the first time when I was in the UK in March of 2020, right before the shit hit the fan with COVID. So, I think we had known each other for something like 15 years before meeting in person.”
Travis Salisbury: “I met Paul in 2008 when I started dating Soft Speaker’s original bass player and now ex-wife. We made fast friends and were always supporting each other’s bands, going to shows and hanging out. When I started learning pedal steel we thought it be fun to see what we could do with it.”
S13: It’s been a big year for the band. Were both Clairvoyance and Gulch written during the same sessions or at different times?
PF: “Most of the songs for Clairvoyance came before the ones on Gulch. We are always working on new material, so there aren’t writing gaps, so to speak. Originally, we intended Salisman to be a studio-only project, which appealed to us for a few reasons, one of them being that we could focus solely on recording and be more productive. Then, of course, we got offered a show out of the blue earlier this year and Travis and I did it as a duo, with our buddy, Jon Raedeke, on percussion. We’re going to do another small show in January in Chicago.”
S13: Whilst an outlier in comparison with the rest of the album, Rom-Com really encapsulates what you’re going for with the record. Did it feel that way to you?
PF: “I wouldn’t say that this song necessarily encapsulates everything we were going for. It just happens to be one of our weird, experimental tracks where we throw the kitchen sink at it and see what happens. We employ three writing strategies: 1. Travis and I start from scratch in his studio and slowly build something up from nothing. Sometimes it winds up being a chord-based song and sometimes it just goes completely wild, as is the case with Rom-Com. 2. I often write songs start to finish on my own and then bring them to the rest of the band. 3. Chris will present us with an instrumental piece he has been working on and we mould that into a song by adding our own parts to it.”
S13: With your records, I find that there are different inflections with each listen. There doesn’t seem to be a stone left unturned. I imagine all three of you have vast different tastes and ideas?
PF: “When I first met Travis, I found out that he had an original Creation Records pressing of Swervedriver’s second LP, Mezcal Head. At the time, it had not been reissued and I wanted it badly. I tried to convince him to sell it to me, but he’s a big fan so obviously that wasn’t happening. Then, when my birthday arrived a few months later, he gifted me a copy that he bought off of eBay. Tremendous. So, we are big shoegaze fans. Slowdive are also a big favourite. On the flippity-flop, I like jazz a lot and I don’t think Travis gives a shit about any of that. As I mentioned before, Chris and I bonded over our admiration of Jason Pierce’s work. I think Chris also introduced me to Bohannon, which is very weird.”
TS: “We definitely each have our personal taste that are present in the music but each of us have an innate sense of what’s needed for the songs. But the best part of this project is that nothing is forbidden. We can mic up noisy kitchen appliances or a weird resonant metal lamp shade if it works for the song. While our tastes come through, we’re not necessarily bound to them.”
S13: With regards to your own listening experience, how does it influence your approach to music?
PF: “I suppose I would say that most everything that I listen to has some kind of influence on me. Whenever I watch music documentaries, I get super psyched. It’s inspiring to watch other people be creative. It’s the opposite of watching sports for me, where you’re watching someone excel at something you know you can’t do yourself. After watching a football or baseball game, I am frequently left feeling empty. But watching something like T. Rex’s Born To Boogie, that makes me want to immediately record or write.”
TS: “As a pedal steel player, there’s an entire world of pedal steel music that I’m exploring and that definitely influences what I do. But I also like to see how steel can be a more interesting sound to have in place of other instruments. But I’m with Paul here, everything I listen to has an influence on me. I think when we get together we each usually have some sort of vibe on our minds that is inspired by something we’ve been listening to.”
S13: Is your approach to writing music with Salisman any different with the other projects you’re all involved with?
PF: “Sometimes I do write specifically for Salisman, but when I write on my own, it’s not a different process than writing for another project. However, it’s a totally different vibe when Chris sends something and then Travis and I build off of that. I like writing vocal melodies and lyrics for his pieces, because they’re usually nothing like what I would write on my own. Roy Haynes Famous Flat Ride and I Sky are examples of this approach.”
S13: What’s next for the band?
PF: “The aforementioned Jon ‘Squid’ Raedeke is our newly-appointed official drummer. So, I guess we’re a quartet now. I have known him since high school. Recently, he was in town for the live show we did and we recorded a new improvised song called Men of the Desert that we built up from a Maestro Rhythm Jester drum machine beat that we ran through a modulated delay. It’s completely bonkers. I don’t think either of us were sure whether it would turn into anything useable, but Travis added pedal steel, Chris worked his magic and it’s a wonderfully bizarre track. The band has enough material for a new double album at this point, but we will probably pick an album’s worth and focus on that. I don’t think many people have the patience to listen to an hour long album these days.”
Gulch and Clairvoyance are out now via Cruel Nature Records. Purchase from Bandcamp.
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